Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday Ramble - Shelter


Shelter's a word dear to a cronish heart when winter arrives, and arrive it has, no mistake. As daylight hours grow shorter, I retreat to tottering stacks of books, lighted candles, mugs of hot stuff and a comfy chair. At dusk, I pull the draperies closed and tune out the cold and the darkness. Hours are spent posing teapots and mugs on the sideboard, and everything brewed up seems to contain little moons of fragrant 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, or at least hold it at bay for an hour or two. I season my potions with abandon and stir them deosil (clockwise) with a wand of fragrant evergreen, pretending the vibrant sprig of green is rosemary from my herb garden, now sleeping under fresh snow. I sometimes wish I lived a little further south and my salvia rosmarinus survived through winter, but it does not, and the aromatic herb will have to be planted again in the spring.

In the dusky weeks between now and Yule, I turn ever inward and find myself 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 many weeks to go before the light returns, at least noticeably so. 

In its present form, this week's word has been with us since the late sixteenth century at least, hailing from the Old English scield, meaning “shield, protector, defender, 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) form skel meaning “to cut or split”. The earliest shelters were probably assembled from defensive shields joined together, and such devices were rounded plates of wood constructed from cut logs.

A shelter is an enclosure of some sort, a cabin, a cave or a hollow, 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 Earl Grey 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.

I could learn a thing or three from the bison, and I will be working on that this winter, facing into the elements myself and trying to stand as firmly and mindfully as the bison do. That will require (of course) many layers of warm clothing, a camera or two and a notebook, also a thermos of tea and Beau's biscuits.

1 comment:

Tabor said...

For some reason this made me think of psychological shelters as well as physical. We need both.