We walked in the snow down to the river. The air was deeply cold, biting when the wind blew. But the sun shown bright in this crystalized world, and there was evidence of life, tracks in the snow, raccoon, coyote, dog, human, bird. At the banks of the river, the ice has broken; the moon pulled the tide in and now there is this emerald-green pool swollen at the bend. It looks inviting, and if I had fur, I would contemplate diving in. My dog moves toward the pool with an eagerness that scares me. She has the fur--is the river calling to her as well? I beckon her to me, tempt her with a treat and we walk on in this transposed arctic land.
Thoughts of the Jack London story "To Build a Fire" shift in my head. The man in the cold. The man with the matches in his hands. The man unable to light the match. Fumbling. The snow falling on the fire. His thoughts of sticking his hands in the dog to keep them warm. The dog getting away. The dog more suited to the environment. The dog as survivor.
This is something I have been trying to wrap my head around lately, how the animals survive in this environment. Their adaptations to such severity seem nothing short of miraculous. As a human, I am exempt from this miracle. I am handicapped in this world.
We make our way to the second bend in the river and the wind is so mean across my face, I decide to turn around. Josie bounds ahead. The story says fifty degrees below zero. Do you feel more pain in fifty degrees below zero than you do five? I dangle here, knowing how vulnerable I am. But this is nothing new. I spend my life acutely aware of how vulnerable I am. More attention needs to be given to the strengths, the talents, the skills. The adaptations.