As a lover of language, I get words stuck in my head. Maybe they make your mouth do tricks like persnickety or lollygag. Or maybe they are powerful like revolution or mother. Or a little word like at that if said too many times in a row turns into a nonsensical syllable. Or maybe they are simple like warmth.
This last one has been on my mind for a while. I’ll say it out loud and let it shape the corners of my mouth as the sound rolls like a wave across my tongue and into the open with the slightest puff of heated air.
We could all offer up a definition of the word: The sensation of being warm. Affection. The opposite of cold. But the beauty of words is not contained within the dictionary definition, but in the ideas, feelings, and memories that we attach to it. Language is elusive like that. Our system of naming and communicating breaks down as soon as we utter a word. I am choosing to use words that – to me – shape my ideas in the most accurate way possible. You take those words and interpret them using your own connotations. So whatever I say will never be what you understand. The words are the same, but for each person, the meanings are always shifting, collapsing, expanding, intensifying.
But back to the matter at hand. Warmth. With the cold weather settling upon us, it seems to be an even more important word to have lingering about. We are interacting with this word differently than we did at other points of the year. Every season seems to influence the word.
Spring warmth is active. Snow melts. Creatures wake from hibernation. Things grow and green. Flowers blossom and bloom.
Summer is a state of warmth. Warmth surrounds you. You absorb it. It travels with you. You revel in it. It is constantly with you.
Autumn warmth is visual. The warm side of the color wheel paints over the overwhelming green of summer. Not just with red, orange, and yellow, but with rust, persimmon, goldenrod, and honey.
In these three seasons, warmth is readily available. Winter is different. In winter, we must seek warmth.
We find it pulling on a pair of thick wool socks that had been hidden in the back of the dresser for the majority of the year and the raggedy old sweater that only its owner could love.
We find it under the covers of the family bed, warming up little feet in our hands under layers of blankets as snow falls outside the bedroom window like stars drifting down to earth from the dark sky.
We find it in a pot of bubbling broth made from grandmother’s recipe, following her handwritten directions to the letter, mirroring the same movements that she made years ago.
We find it in a room full of loved ones gathering for a holiday feast that has been deftly prepared by practiced hands as the guests fill the air with stories in harmony – beautiful to the ear.
We find it in the momentum of an axe swing, in the repetition of chopping wood, in carrying logs to the fireplace where everyone moves in a little closer to find the perfect spot.
We find it while nestled underneath our cold weather knitting projects, adding our own warmness to the handmade gifts we will distribute this season.
We find it in the love that we carry with us, an inextinguishable ember that only glows brighter as the days and nights grow colder.
If on a gray, blustery day the chill seems to set into your bones, freezing your ability to feel anything other than cold, remember that although warmth is harder to find in the winter, when you do find it – and you will – it will warm not only your body, but your heart.
Rachel Lendyak-Peters is a freelance writer and stay at home mama of darling identical twin boys in Western Pennsylvania. With the help of her husband, they have filled their home with love, handmade happiness and homegrown goodness, which she writes about at her blog, Pete and Repeat.
Rhythm of the Home is an online magazine for families that focuses on creating with children, nature explorations, seasonal celebrations, conscious parenting, and mindfulness in all that we do.