Friday, November 30, 2018

Friday Ramble - Shelter

Shelter's a word dear to a cronish heart when winter arrives. Daylight hours are short, and I become insular, retreat to tottering stacks of books, lighted candles, mugs of tea and a comfy chair by the hearth. I pull draperies closed at dusk and try to tune out the snowy world. I spend hours posing teapots and mugs on the sideboard, and everything I brew up seems to contain thin half-moons of orange, clove nubbins, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods or anise stars, sometimes all at once. One does whatever she has to do to drive the dark away.

In the dusky weeks before Yule, I find myself turning ever inward and thinking about the tiny flame at the heart of things, its tender bloom promising warmth, sunlight and longer days somewhere up the trail, if we can only hang on. Alas, there are several weeks to go before the light returns, at least noticeably so.

The etymology of shelter is obscure, but the word has been with us since the late sixteenth century, finding its origins in the earlier Old English scield, meaning “shield, protection, cover, board”. Further back is the Proto-Germanic *skelduz (also source of the Old Norse skj√∂ldr, Old Saxon skild, Middle Dutch scilt, Dutch schild, German schild and Gothic skildus), from skel meaning to "divide, split or separate”. At the end of this week's wordy rambling is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) skel meaning “to cut”. The earliest shields would most likely have been flat pieces of wood made by splitting logs into rounds.

By the classic definition, a shelter is an enclosure of some sort, a cabin or a cave, an embracing tree or thicket, a harbor shielded by guardian hills and out of the sea wind. We all have our shelters and sanctuaries, and their shapes and trappings are highly personal. For deer and wild turkeys, it's the protection and nourishment afforded by woodland cedar groves in winter.  For hibernating bears, it's the secluded leaf-strewn dens where they can sleep away winter.  For rabbits and hares, it's snug burrows in the earth and the overhanging branches of evergreens shielding them from icy temperatures and the rapt attention of predators. For me, it's a fire in the fireplace downstairs, a mug of Darjeeling or chai, a big fat book (better still a stack) and a comfortable chair.

For local bison herds, shelter is a movable feast, and they create their own wherever they happen to be, bracing themselves against the wind, lowering their lavishly maned heads into the white stuff and standing fast. They think nothing of nodding off in a snowdrift, and when they move through a storm, they move together, facing directly into the elements rather than turning away as domestic cattle do, wild and woolly Highland cattle being the exception perhaps.

I could learn a thing or three from the bison, and I will be working on that this winter, just hanging out by the fence and watching the great creatures breathe in and out in the icy wind, facing into the elements myself and trying to stand as firmly and mindfully as they do. There will (of course) be many layers of warm clothing involved, a camera or two and a whole bag of lenses. No problem about snow, there is already enough down to make the experience complete.


Tabor said...

Interesting to learn how seriously you take your photography...but not surprising. You carry the bag of lenses! I shelter, hubby is like the bison, ever exploring and going out to meet other bison.

Mystic Meandering said...

I guess I like winter because it lets me hibernate, not that I like the cold so much now that I'm "old" :), and we don't get as dark as you during daylight hours, but there's less "doing" energy in winter and so I don't feel guilty about just allowing myself to shelter in and rest and rejuvenate...