Friday, November 21, 2008

Contrast and Completion

First, thanks very much to both Laughingwolf and Demon Hunter for giving me this award.

Ain’t she a beaut? It probably won’t be a surprise to anyone that I don’t follow all the rules upon receiving this award. I follow enough rules in my day to day work life that I tend to resist them when I’m expressing myself here on the blog. Call me an anarchist! Or just a lazy idiot! It would be impossible anyway to just nominate 10 of my blog colleagues. I see so much wonderful stuff here every day.

And now for my own day’s post. Since I’m working from home today I decided to sleep out on our deck last night. It’s getting pretty cool here now. The temp dropped into the low 40s and there was a gusting breeze, but I built myself a cocoon of blankets on top of my cot and snuggled down as toasty as a pig in warm mud. Even though I was aware of the occasional ping of acorns or twigs on the deck’s tin roof, I slept wonderfully and feel very rested today.

It’s really a different experience sleeping outside. I could hear the constant murmur of the breeze, and feel it caressing the cot. I heard night birds and a few other critters I couldn’t name. The chill in the air around me increased the pleasure I found in being warm and snug. It's the contrast effect, I guess. The awareness of contrast somehow enhances my emotional feelings.

I remember when I was a kid, during the winter, when it would get cold as could be in my room at night because we had such a big drafty house. And even though I was snug under the covers, I'd deliberately stick my foot out and let it get cold so I could draw it back under the quilt and feel the enveloping warmth. And I remember when we’d have winter rains and I’d pull a chair up close to the edge of our porch, snuggle up in a blanket, and read there where droplets of chill mist could drift over me.

I guess it's hard to understand and appreciate the good unless you’ve experienced the bad. How can you truly know warmth if you’ve never known cold? How can you understand the true wonders of a good meal unless you’ve gone hungry? I guess I have to be thankful for the women who broke my heart when I was younger, or else I wouldn’t understand now how wonderful my life is with Lana.

I am truly blessed.


David Cranmer said...

When I first came to Louisiana from New York at the beginning of the year, I thought the weather was quite nice. But I must be acclimatized now since I'm also finding this weather a bit too cool for my tastes. I shiver at the thought of sleeping out on the deck.

Cloudia said...

Wow! I totally flashed on snow-camping in New Hampshire with a down mummy bag, tent, ground pad. Such a wonderful feeling! So healing! Cold is bracing and beautiful & REAL. You be your beautiful, irresponsible self, Charles. Ride where the wind takes you. My blog's topic for two days now: "Playing Hooky."
Damn, we need some play and serendipidy about now, eh?
Aloha from (warm) Waikiki-

ANNA-LYS said...

So much love!!!

You are both lucky having each other!

Enjoy Your weekend,

MarmiteToasty said...

Was you not worried about bears eating you in the night and other wild creatures you have over there?

I LOVE sleeping outside in just a bivi bag.... its been awhile but maybe next summer....

We dont have bears here though LOL


Paul R. McNamee said...


Currently, we have a pumpkin on our steps and something has been gnawing on it. I saw that an opossum is the culprit so I won't be sleeping outside lest I wake up with a furry creature on my face.

Plus, we're already down to 30F here at night this week.

But with the new deck and all I might give that a try in Spring before the bugs arrive.

Steve Malley said...

Man, you are one wise m****rf***r!

I can only guess it comes from being something of a damnfool in the past? Least, I want to think so, cause that'd mean there's hope for me!

L.A. Mitchell said...

What a sweet, thoughtful post. If only all men could be as wise.

Charles Gramlich said...

David Cranmer, I still tend to be wearing short sleeve shirts to school when everyone else is wearing jackets. I get asked often, aren't you cold? Now days I get them first with "aren't you hot?"

Cloudia, yes, there's something about the chill that really energizes me. I don't want to be chronically cold, of course, but some exposure to it is nice.

Anna-lys, thanks. We are lucky.

Marmite toasty, mostly it would be racoons around where we live and so far they haven't attacked :)

Paul, I'd sleep out more in the summer except for the damn mosquitoes. It's just impossible.

Steve Malley, my foolishness goes in spurts, sometimes long spurts of a couple of years or more.

L.A., thanks. Modesty precludes me from bragging further on myself. lol.

laughingwolf said...

could not agree more, charles...

BernardL said...

Being able to count your blessings is usually a talent acquired from times when there were too few to count. :)

Lana Gramlich said...

Aw shucks, baby...I shouldn't have read this at work, 'cuz I'm about to cry. Love you much!

Anonymous said...

You've inspired me to do that again.

I forgot those experiences until you so well described them just now.

Barbara Martin said...

The main thing, Charles, for sleeping outside is that you got a good night's rest in fresh, cool air.

Steve Malley, there is always hope for you.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

You know Charles that was very profound!

But you still are not gonna get me to sleep outside! I'm a city girl to the core!

Donnetta said...

Charles: Yes, we have to know both sides. That's life. If things come too easy, we don't learn much. And we certainly don't appreciate as much as we should. Does this mean that I'll finally write something worthy after writing so much poopy stuff?? hahaha Ah, one of these days...D

Sidney said...

Some good points. I haven't slept outside in a long time.

Aine said...

Excellent point. We must know sadness before we can appreciate happiness. Thank you for reminding me! It is the foundation for my optomistic perspective: I always think of how bad things could be, and that makes me grateful for what I have.

I enjoy experiencing a rustic way of living at our cabin. And I will never again take indoor plumbing for granted!

Shauna Roberts said...

Your post made me feel so cold I got goosebumps and had to put on a shirt over my tank top.

I had a similar experience one summer long ago when I worked at a salvage dig at an Indian mound. A highway was coming through shortly, and we had to shovel and sieve and push wheelbarrows like madpeople all day every day in humid 90°+ weather. The peanut butter sandwiches I took for lunch were the best-tasting meals I've ever had, and the cool water in the boss's five-gallon jug was nectar of the gods. After lunch, I'd curl up in a wheelbarrow and doze, and that felt wonderful too.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

An award?!!! You know,I've never gotten an award. Not that you don't deserve it, you do, but just once...just once to keep me from whining in the icy night, I want recognition. It doesn't have to be big. Teacher of the Year, would do. Nobel Prize. Pulitzer. But no.


I just go on in my gray world whining. Anyway..congrats. Must be a southern thing.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, glad you agree.

Bernardl, I’ve had moments when I didn’t feel blessed. Sometimes it’s hard to count your blessings.

Lana, and I love you sweetness.

Jason Evans, enjoy my friend.

Barbara Martin, it was just excellent, although it’s supposed to drop down near freezing tonight so I may not do it again.

Ello, you don’t know what you’re missing.

Donnetta Lee, well, Bradbury always said you’ve got to get rid of that first million words of bad stuff.

Sidney, Lana and I missed our camping in the spring because a Wren had built a nest in our tent.

Aine, oh you are right about indoor plumbing. One great blessing for sure. 

Shauna, yes, amazing how soft a hard surface can feel when you’re dog tired.

Stewart, haven’t gotten an award? I figured there were awards named “for” you. What about Villain of the year? Didn’t you get that award?

Rick said...

Look, Charles, if Lana made you sleep outside, just be honest about it!

It happens. Naw, she'd never make you sleep on the porch.

Must be wonderful to be so secure down there that you can actually sleep on your own porch without being robbed...

But on the topic of broken hearts, what a wondeful observation.

eric1313 said...

I want to sleep on my balcony now. But it's about 20 degrees not counting wind chill and it's snowed about 5 times. But I will do this come spring time, sounds like a nice way to spend a night. Yep, defeats the purpose of feeling the cold in order to love the heat all the more, but I'm about a 130 soaking wet, I'll freeze before dawn if I try it now.

And indeed, if we don't know the lows, how can we appreciate the highs? I've been poor most of my life, grew up that way. When I get money now, I really just think about having a good time. Too bad the current economic clime does not promote that, I've actually had to save what little I have in order to confront any situations coming over the horizon. But I'm rather easy come easy go when it comes to that. I can barely spell fiscal responsibility.

As for broken hearts... Exactly! I write about the things I do because they are ideas, not fantasies. I've been hurt and I've healed too. It just takes time, and sometimes at the time (the scene of the broken heart crime, if you will...) it does not seem like it ever will get better, but it will. It always does. And truly, that experience, like everything else in life, helps us with our writing. If we know of no heartbreak, how can we handle any even semi-delicate situation with our characters?

JR's Thumbprints said...

You have me longing for deer camp, where all the men sit around in their underwear eating pork & beans inside a tent heated by a wood burning stove. There was no inbetween. If you stayed in the tent it was too damn hot, and if you went outside (clothes back on of course) it was too damn cold. But if I may add, the fresh cold outside air could be appreciated a tad bit more after everyone had their fill.

j said...

I can't sleep outside. I have tried to camp and the experience was not the best. Why do I feel like I need a lock between me and the world when it is dark? It would be nice to feel that at home inside or out as to not.... 'fear' I guess?

Glad there is love in your life. My home is my sactuary because of the love that is here and I faithfully pray a hedge of protection around it.

Hope you and yours have a great weekend!

Charles Gramlich said...

Rick, now knowing me, how do you know I wasn't sleeping with a .357 under my pillow?

Eric1313, yeah, that's probably a bit too cold. It got to freezing here last night so I didn't sleep out. I don't really want frostbite.

JR, yeah, when you're hot that first brisk bite of cold air is just sooooooooo pleasant. Been a long time since I went deer camping.

Jennifer, My mom has always been that way. Everything is locked up the minute darkness comes. For me, it depends on the environment. When I lived in an apartment complex I did keep the doors locked, but here they are mostly lunlocked whenever we are physically awake.

Anndi said...

Well deserved award!

I've learned to greatly appreciate healthy lungs since the bronchitis from hell.

And... awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Enjoy your weekend with your bride.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations of your well deserved award. I haven't slept outside for ages. It sounds like fun. Its like you were Conan sleeping under the stars or a cowboy out on the trail. What you say about contrast is true.

Merisi said...

I grew up sleeping under a thick eiderdown comforter in an unheated room. During the long cold winter, frozen ice crystals would twinkle in a corner or two of the bedroom. My mother would put a hot water bottle or a hot brick, wrapped in a quilted bag, under the cover, just before we got into bed. It was nice, to have one warm spot in the otherwise ice cold bed. To this day, I can't sleep well in heated bedrooms.

Travis Cody said...

I remember sticking my feet out of the bottom of my blankets for as long as I could stand it. Then I would kick my legs up so the blankets would tuck up under my feet, and lay there shivering until the warmth finally took the chill off and I drifted to sleep.

To this day I can't have the blankets tucked in the bottom of the bed. I have to be able to wrap them around my feet, like when I was a kid.

Miladysa said...

Congratulations on the award.

"How can you truly know warmth if you’ve never known cold? How can you understand the true wonders of a good meal unless you’ve gone hungry?"

I totally agree with your viewpoint here.

writtenwyrdd said...

Contrast does provide perspective, Charles. Congrats on your award. It always feels good to be appreciated.

Scott said...

Charles, I also enjoy the feeling of the chill air. We've been talking about camping next month, so I may get to sleep outside soon. I may have to take my new tent for a test run in my backyard to get some outdoor sleeping in before then.

eric1313 said...

One time when I was camping out during an old paintball expedition with my friends (a 24 hour scenario game, 15 of us went each year for 4 years and formed our own platoon, it rocked), I wrapped in a blanket and slept so close to the fire I was woke up by my friend Justin stamping flames on the end of my blanket out!

I woke up then (understandably), and we had some instant coffee and smoked some contraband before heading out to get some night paintball in before dawn.

It was a cool game, it took place on a 50 acre well-defined area, and you could come and go as you pleased to the camp grounds. It was the kind of game where if you were hit, you just went to a special "dead zone", one for each team, and every half-hour all the dead were released back into the game.

Good stuff. Totally off topic, but a fun time none the less.

Charles Gramlich said...

Anndi, thankee. I hope you get well soon.

Jack, I imagined myself sleeping on a boat well out to sea, perhaps a Viking longship.

Merisi, I'm the same way with heated rooms. It just really makes me uncomfortable. I like it to be cool at least around me.

Travis, I enjoy that wrapping blankets around my feet too. That's definitely what I did on the deck.

Miladysa, thank you. And yes it does give you perspective.

Writtenwyrd, yes it does. Thanks.

Scott, Lana and I have done a fair amount of camping in our back yard. It's very nice. Of course, we've got trees on three sides.

Eric1313, the dead were released back into the game. I like that. Long before paintball, my nephews and I used to play a version of that kind of night game on the farm. Loved it.

Barrie said...

I have good memories of sleeping out under the stars. Despite the mosquitoes. Great post.

Miles McClagan said...

It's been cold for so long in Tasmania I've forgotten what warmth is...and that's not some kind of deep metaphor, it's literal...

Charles Gramlich said...

Barrie, I don't really remember mosquitoes from young days. I slept out a lot.

Miles McClagen, ouch. I certainly don't want that much cold. A little goes far enough. Thanks for visiting.

ivan said...

From old Appalachian song:

"And you shiver when the wind blows cold."

cs harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cs harris said...

You obviously have waaay more tolerance for cold than I do. When I was an undergrad in Idaho, health regulations required the windows on the sleeping porch to be wide open all night long, even at 40 below. Never again.

Heff said...

Congrats on the award. God bless warmth, good food, and even better women.

Monique said...

Well, this post gave me some memories. I grew up in Holland where the winters are very, very cold. The only heating in the house was a huge hearth in the living room. Bedroom icy with ice on the inside of the window. Bed with cotton sheet, three or four blankets and an eiderdown. The problem always was that, even though I had a really hot hot water bottle at the end of the bed, the rest of the bed was freezing inside. The hot water bottle would slowly travel my whole body until I was warm. In the morning, of course, the bed was warm and, with no carpeting but really cold lino on the floor, my feet would instantly freeze the moment they touched the floor.

Yes, I knew cold and you know what? I think we were all much healthier than now with all that central heating.


Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, sometimes the shiver is for more reasons than temperature.

Candy, wow, they were afraid of contagion, I guess?

Heff, thanks. And yes indeed.

Monique, I grew up in northern Arkansas, which got pretty cold in the winter though nothing like Minnesota or anything. Our house was big and very drafty, heated only by a few gas stoves, although we didn't have any in our bedrooms.

Danette Haworth said...

There really is nothing cozier than snuggling in against the cold. (Oh, and naps, a wonderful luxury.)

Charles Gramlich said...

Danette, I agree.

Vesper said...

And now you have three lemonade stands... :-) :-) :-)

I guess it's hard to understand and appreciate the good unless you’ve experienced the bad.
And it seems that you do appreciate the good. Your wonderful words about Lana show it. You are truly blessed.

Charles Gramlich said...

Vesper, thank you for the kindness.