Friday, December 08, 2023

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, plump up the pillows, put on the kettle and tune out the cold and the darkness. 

One does whatever she has to do to drive the dark away, or at least hold it at bay for a while. Hours are spent dreaming up beakers of steaming goodness, 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. A flagon of tea always lifts my spirits, and posing my creations on the sideboard is a labour of love.

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 a blanket of snow. Sometimes, I wish I lived a little further south and my salvia rosmarinus survived through winter, but it does not, and that gloriously aromatic member of the mint family 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. After December 21st, days will begin to lengthen again, but it will be some time until the change is apparent. 

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 military shields joined together, and such devices were usually 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 sleep through the long white season. 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 burning on the hearth and my red shawl, a mug of Earl Grey or chai, a big fat book (better still a stack) and a comfortable chair.

2 comments:

a gardener said...

I ran across this quote today and thought of your wonderful Friday post.

“Surely everybody is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a winter fireside, candles at four o’clock, warm hearth-rugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.”
― Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater

kerrdelune said...

Love this, thank you!