A Cold Night

They have been painting the outside window trim here in my building, which means that we all need to keep our windows open for another week or so, to let the paint dry fully in order to keep the windows from sticking. The problem with this open-window plan is that it is supposed to drop into the low/mid 40's overnight! The air outside has been getting cooler all evening, which means that I'm wearing socks (a difficult concession for my flip-flop devoted soul) and am wrapped up in the shawl I knit earlier this summer (I'm excited to give it some use!). When I get ready for bed, I'll definitely be wearing sweatpants, and probably a fleece, and I will certainly pull the extra blankets out of my closet.

Going to bed in a cold bedroom is nothing new for me. My bedroom in high school had a huge bay window on one wall and another window on another wall. It was in the old part of the house - the part with the old heating system that never had quite enough oomph to truly keep things warm. So when fall and winter arrived, my bedroom in the front corner would be one of the coldest places in the house. Crawling under cold sheets is nothing new (experience taught me that socks help mitigate the shock of ice-cold bedding), extra blankets are commonplace (sometimes I'd pull an extra dusty rose comforter over my quilt, other times it would be a cream-colored afghan), and holding my knees to my chest to keep warm by my own body heat is something familiar.

Those were the days when my friend Dan would roam the streets at night, indulging his inner poet, philosopher, and free spirit. Many nights this would mean that he'd tap at my window, jarring me awake and sending me, half-asleep, to the front steps of my house for midnight conversations that became a routine part of my sophomore year. I'm not sure why we never decided to be practical - no matter what time of year, these late-night conversations always took place outside, even on the coldest nights when the cold of the front steps seeped into our legs as we sat, pondering the stars, pondering love and life, pondering meaning-of-life philosophies in a dreamy and emotional manner specific to adolescence.

Those were the days when I readily embraced a poetic identity - when emotions and drama ran high but were necessary fodder for authentic and spontaneous (though formless and rambling) poems. Those were the days when I considered myself a child of Emerson and Thoreau - a modern-day transcendentalist who loved the revelatory quality of nature (though, looking back, it was actually more an addiction to the sentimental and romantic parts of nature: a full moon, a starry sky, a fresh snow, the dark outline of a tree against a violet sky).

Those were the days when I would bundle up on winter nights, crawl into bed, and sip chamomile tea while writing in my journal before bed. I believed myself to be a writer, a poet, a dreamer, a cozy person who paradoxically found authenticity only in a romanticized view of life.

And in all of this, I was wide-eyed and completely naive, though fully aware (and appreciative) of my naivitee. I was an idealist, I believed in love and destiny, I loved music and creativity more than any other pursuits, I had a simple (simiplistic?) understanding of my faith that tended to prefer absolutes to gray areas, I was easily swept away by the romantic, I was convinced of the inherent goodness of all people, I craved the esoteric.

There are still traces of all of those qualities in me, most certainly. I'll admit that I am more practical than I was ten years ago, and probably more cynical. And I know that I have traded in my romanticized musings of what might be for a healthy acceptance of taking things one day at a time. I appreciate that my faith worldview is now much more complex, and while I still enjoy the esoteric, these days I prefer an academic/intellectual brand of esocericism rather than a dreamy/philosophical variety. I still love music, still appreciate creativity, still love writing (though growing older has rid me of a fair amount of the adolescent drama that used to provide me with endless poetic fodder).

And on this cold night, I'll crawl in between smooth and chilled sheets, and find that my body and my mind will be able to remember the way that my old twin bed felt, the way that my old bedroom smelled of flowers and conflicting-scented candles, the absurd joy of sitting outside on the cold front steps for secret conversations in the quiet of night. It's hard to believe that I'm ten years past all of that.

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