Cold. Cold. Cold. The refrain from Annie Lennox’s song rolls through my brain each morning when I wake up, each time I open the back door, each time I walk out of my house. I have worn my mountain gear for days now: Three or four shirts, two pairs of gloves. Long johns and outer layers that slick away snow and wind. I do not like to be cold.
But I do love the cold. It’s embarrassing to admit it in this Mid-Atlantic town that shuts down at the mere whisper of snow. Cold is basic, elemental, revealing.
Cold. Ten years old. I’m walking by myself up the hill behind someone’s grandmother’s house in Pennsylvania where my family is staying for the weekend. The snow is at least a foot deep, the sun is setting on the hill, and I am ecstatic as I pause to breathe in the white landscape, the solitude, and the sheer beauty of the red and pink light falling down the hill toward me.
Cold. I live alone on the third floor of a hotel in the middle of the big woods of Montana. It is New Year’s Eve. Corrine, one of the twenty-six permanent residents of this town – half Blackfoot, half white, sixteen years old and a waitress at the hotel where I work – she and I head out in the snow just before midnight, candles in our pockets, to light a light in the forest. As the new year breaks over us, all I can see is her face in the candlelight. We send up a tiny prayer.
Cold. The meal is over, the boys have left, and we’ve had our Thanksgiving nap. I still live in the small town in the woods. My friend M. and I head out to ski on a brilliantly bitter full moon night. After a few miles M. starts to tire: all she wants to do is lay down and “take a little nap.” Sheer survival kicks in. I goad, push, cajole her back onto the trail home. Nothing is more pure – or more motivating – than a cold death wrapping her icy hands around you. Home feels so good.
Leslie has been keeping a journal since she was sixteen years old. One of these days she will read what she has written and figure out who this person she's been living with is.
Leslie has taken classes with Valley