An Ancient Companion


The cold has the philosophical value of reminding men that the universe does not love us…cold is our ancient companion.   To return back indoors after exposure to the bitter, inimical, implacable cold is to experience gratitude for the shelters of civilization, for the islands of warmth that life creates.
~John Updike from “The Cold”

We’ve had a string of sub-freezing temperature nights and days with crystal clear skies once the frozen fog abates.  There has been no northeaster to send the windchill plummeting.  Everything shimmers with diamonds of frosty glitter all day long.  It is the kind of cold this pacific northwest native can actually enjoy.  It is not the cold of the midwest plains, or the Alaskan frontier.  This is civilized, “kill the bugs and the allergens” cold that helps balance out the ecosystem as well as our internal thermostats.  It is just not seemly to live at 70 degrees year round, toasted by the stove in the winter, soothed by conditioned air in the summer.

We are not always so lucky as this.  The cold that sometimes descends from the Arctic can blast through the strongest Carhartt clothing, sneak through drafty doors and windows, and freeze pipes not left dripping.  It leaves no one untouched and unbitten with universal freezer burn.

A bitter cold snap ensures even independent fair-weather individualists must become companionable when the going gets rugged, mandating shelter with others for survival.  It can even mean forced companionship with those we ordinarily avoid, with whom we have little in common, with whom we disagree and even quarrel, with whom sharing a hug or snuggling for warmth would be unimaginable.

Our nation is in such a cold snap today, terribly and bitterly divided.  If we all together don’t come in out of the deep freeze, we each will perish alone.   It is time to be thankful we have each other, such as we are.  At least we can generate heat, even if we can’t lighten up.

2 thoughts on “An Ancient Companion

  1. You just get better and better, Dear Emily. I want to print this, too; I’ve taken to describing my personal political views as “radically centrist.” It’s amazing how many don’t get it, but heartening that some do. A cousin in Ohio says she’s gonna borrow it!!


  2. Beautifully said, Dr. Emily. I enjoy living in the northeast with the change of seasons, each one bringing something special and different – and always good to look forward to. My hope is that we have not irreparably destroyed our earthly home; the signs are ominous and yet we continue to ignore them.

    Your deep freeze metaphor so aptly describes where we are as individuals and families, as a nation, and as a world that seems to grow smaller each day. All are dangerously divided along so many lines. It seems to worsen at an alarming pace. Much of the discord and hatred — some ancient, some new — is just below the surface, festering as one oozing wound. Is it going to take a cataclysmic event to make us come together, recognizing that we all are created by a loving God?

    We DO need each other; we are not meant to be alone, in isolation. This is true not only for families but extends to the entire population that inhabits this tiny planet in this God-created universe.

    Thank you for a timely reminder, beautiful woman. God’s blessings and peace be upon you.


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