Yesterday was the first morning this year that we’ve had a southern wind. Soft. Not the cutting cold that blows in from the North Sea. It was such a grey, dull morning that I would have missed it had E. not pointed it out.

My body opens in the warmth. My spine centers itself. Or probably more accurately, my chest – my heart – stops retreating from the world. Huddling.

When I first moved to Norway I thought it odd that so many people considered it a human right to vacation in the south of Europe each year. I thought it was Marie Antoinette-like, that there were articles in the paper about how children whose families couldn’t afford it were impoverished. I still think that, but I do understand now that beyond the privilege is a physical longing for warmth that overrides the intellect. The body thinks, “Me, me, me.” It thinks survival. The cold is a predator. A trial by ice.

There’s a legend that Norwegians would leave a newborn in the snow overnight. If it lived they would take it home again.

There are winter Norwegians and summer Norwegians. The huddling, cold, keep-to-yourself, hide-in-your-den Norwegians, and the “Come join us for a beer” Norwegians. And usually, the winter has condensed them so much it can take a beer to pry them open. Or a hike in the wilderness – in a southern wind.

By February every year I am so contracted I am almost stone. I become obsessed with thoughts of the Mediterranean. I dream of safaris in the Serengeti and treks through humid rain forests in Peru.

Where I live is not that cold, really. But for someone from southern California, from Nevada, and Texas? It is cold enough to feel like death. No. It’s more than that. It’s a matter of association.

When I moved from the States to Norway, I landed among war monuments, war ruins like old Nazi bunkers, trenches, and cannon fortifications. History lives here in the landscape not just in my grandfather’s memory or in books. Death lives here. When I arrived I got pregnant – a risky, precarious pregnancy. I spent 5 months in the hospital. Alone.

Death hovers here. The shift in geography coincided with a shift in my comprehension. Mortality. Legacy. Grandfather died while I was here, so far away. Among his memories.

The world was always a threatening place, but more fairy tale than newspaper articles. Consequences were romanticized – a child anticipating an earthquake, or a hurricane, with the distance of innocence.

Now I long for the warmer climates with the same distance of innocence. I know that. Death is everywhere that there is life. So I settle for the mild warmth of the southern wind.

geese arrive as long-
necked, v-shaped patterns over-
head, black against sky

I’m not a silver linings kind of gal. Not a “look on the bright side” person. Not because I insist on wallowing, but that I believe I need to allow myself to accept what is hard, or unpleasant or destructive, for what it is – honestly. I need to see this “thing” for what it is and acknowledge the real consequences.

It seems to me that looking for bright sides is gaslighting oneself. A kind of emotional sleight of hand. That said, life is full of “things”. Dark things and bright things. And sometimes it does help to keep the nourishing things in view while dealing with the things that can kill us.

I remember seeing a drawing a few years ago of a dark tangle of lines inside a small circle. It represented grief. The image was followed by a larger circle with the same size dark tangle of lines inside. The idea being that grief doesn’t get smaller, but that life goes on and becomes fuller, and the grief takes up less space in our lives.

I am no expert on grief, but this makes sense to me. And I see no reason why it wouldn’t help to look around and make my life larger in the present. To make my circle of awareness larger.

These past months have been fluid in terms of hours and activities. My tight schedule raveled and my tasks haphazardly completed – if they’ve been completed. It has felt like a working vacation. Which is neither work nor vacation. And now this new grief that spills over everything.

It’s time to tidy up. To put things in order. I can’t wipe away the trauma, that is not my trauma, that is my trauma. But I can gather all the things and put them in their place. I can’t stick grief on a shelf and turn the dark side to the wall. It is there. But there is more here.

It’s 5:30 now. The dog has been out to pee, and E. has put on his running clothes. The blackbirds are singing in the driveway and the sun is trying hard to shine through the mist. I’ve opened the small greenhouse doors. The kale has already bolted into bright yellow flowers, and the strawberries have resurrected on their own and the white blossoms are begging for bees.

Maybe this year I’ll get berries?

I know I can’t control the chaos of life. The world is random and changing. But I can create systems through which to view it. It seems to me that is a basic human instinct. Even if it is a bit like herding cats, as they say.

This morning I’m off for a run. The mourning dove (I swear) is calling now from the railway’s overhead line.

a slug on a tree stump
and her world is as soft as
ice cream on your tongue