Saturday, November 5, 2011

Heart Warming

I always sit outside at Starbucks because I can't bear the chill of commercial air conditioning, especially down here in Florida where it is usually cranked up to brutal levels.

But at this moment, here at this little table looking out at the palm trees ringing this parking lot on Biscayne Boulevard, I'm still cold. My hands are cold, my arms in their t-shirt are cold, my toes in their Birkies are cold.

Today's Miami Herald cheerfully proclaimed the advent of winter season--the return of cooler, drier air (a low of 60!)--as if that were a good thing.

This morning in the 5 a.m. chill of my RV I realized that cold is the key to advancing my novel (see previous blog entry). It is the cold--or rather, the inability to get warm--that will finally motivate my dear, settled, unchanging Nebraska architect to cast his lot with the Miami free spirit who has introduced him to the possibilities of life in the tropics.

In the mid 1980s, I wrote a personal essay for the Miami Herald's Tropic Magazine on the subject of love and cold. I had just returned from a summer in Oregon, a journey undertaken in part to put some distance between myself and a relationship whose intensity was causing me some pain. I had always preferred to be alone, unencumbered not only by husbands (there had been two by then) but even friends, who often seemed merely clutter and noise in my life. Yet as the Portland weather turned chilly I came to accept, then to want, and finally to need closer human contact. By the second week of autumn, I was even dreaming of marriage. That the man in question was in any case not available for that particular adventure did not affect the strength of my surprising desire. I knew it was time to head back south.

The lesson of that northwestern summer was an understanding of the role warmth plays in my life. Sunshine, warm air, give me what other people seek from friends, family, even lovers.

And so I see that my Nebraska architect, suddenly bereft of his family's human warmth, will feel his body and then his heart tugged south by the letters of his faithful correspondent.

As for me, I'll dig out my heavy sweater and socks, and hope they'll protect me from making any rash proposal to some random fellow Starbucks customer.

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