To Be Cleansed By The Cold
By: Brad Cole

It was late afternoon when I got back to the dark and cold cabin. Seeing the temperature indoors at 20 degrees I knew that it would take an hour to rise to the 50's, where I can feel comfortable. The small dry cabin in the forest north of Fairbanks, Alaska heats up easily. Meanwhile, I turned on the single ceiling light bulb and a local radio station to catch the news; sometimes I like hearing another voice around the place. I throw a hot dish into the microwave and in two minutes it's steaming. Knowing it will cool off quickly I sit down at a small table close to the heater to eat dinner. My drinking water comes from an icy stream north of town, one that flows down from snowy mountains near the Arctic Circle, so it has a natural purity to its flavor.

Feeling a need to stretch after dinner and to take in fresh air, I stepped outside with my astronomy binoculars. I love winter stargazing. The crispness of the dry and frozen sky helps me to feel close to the forever-sprawling universe. Leaning against a telephone pole to steady the heavy binoculars, I studied Jupiter closely and counted its visible moons. There were four of them like shiny pearls circling the mother planet in the night. Then I found and looked at the Andromeda galaxy, the Seven Sisters, and Orion's Star Nebula, which is like a birthing cloud for stars and finally the old familiar moon. I visually follow these celestial objects practically every night and enjoy watching their ancient and constellation filled migrations across the changing seasons.

Winter is my favorite season, I reflected while standing outside gazing into the night, and it has been since I was young. My life has been hollowed out by the countless snowy moonlight trails I have walked. The rawness of winter is good for a person, but of course, too much of it can make you sick. I was still lost in these thoughts while turning to go back indoors. While watching my steps on icy ground I firmly believed in being cleansed by the animal coldness of night, for it to take away my despairing spirit from this selfish, dirty world in which I live but do not love. My goal by living here as I do is to have my spirit carried into and through the sacredness of a starry sky like a leaf on the curling wind, and then to return to the Earth cleansed, renewed, strengthened and wiser. There is strength in the crystalline purity of a winter night and it can teach us to be rich in spirit; this I felt in my warm heart is true.

But I paused for a minute in the 20 below temperatures before returning to the cabin. Standing before the vast starry night I mused over an old idea. Perhaps a deeply loving but cold, cosmic God decided it wanted to experience a more passionate, animal form of life and love; bursting forth from its black encrusted shell it made what we have as earthly life today. For love has been at the heart of every desperate struggle but also it is within love that all things are one. So are we entertaining God with our dramas, I questioned? Gripping the large binoculars tightly with cold hands I turned around and walked back to the now cozy cabin.

Once back indoors I started putting my "Night Club" together. This is when I bring inside a large carved pumpkin, a jack o' lantern left over from Halloween and sit it on the floor. I put a candle inside of Jack; his beautifully glowing orange skin and twisted but wolfish grin makes me laugh. He is like a brother to me, I felt. Then I light about six candles at different locations around the room, using only one lit candle to light all the others. The candles shine like stars in the night, I thought. It is always amazing to watch how the intense heat of a flame can ignite the fire of another closely held candle, as though giving it birth. The flame appears to "leap" across empty space, from one wick to the other. I wonder if in the spirit world this is how "awakenings" or "possessions" can occur. Staring into a small but firm looking flame I wondered if our souls are easily accessible by other spirits, like a breeze blowing through an open window. Looking at the soft orange glow of Jack, I reflected on whether our souls could be "jumped" or "captivated" by prowling nightly spirits who are being either good or bad. Perhaps, this is how spirits bond with creatures of the Earth. If one were feeling abandoned in the cold and dark, but had a good prayerful heart, a sympathetic spirit may come to warm and enlighten you; but if you have a bad heart a hungry wolfish spirit may come to attack and devour you. Looking at the luster of the candlelight once again I realized that the flame embodies both the evil of its' beastly shadows and the shining redemption of its' radiance.

Pouring another cup of Arctic spring water, I felt that it was so easy at times to fall into a dark despair, that I can feel so entombed by this world. Sometimes when alone I just want to reach out my arms and ask the mammoth darkness to hold me tenderly. Growing physically tired, I switched to drinking dark beer and listening to rock and later in the evening native drumming music. Looking about, I love the aura of the pastoral candles and the night-filled shadows they draw on the bare walls of my cabin. I can tell by the toothy canine grin that Jack loves the pulsating beat of the drums. Like a shot of Irish whiskey they make the darkness come alive.

Finally as the night lumbers on I grow tired of listening to music. I start extinguishing the candles and rather reluctantly take Jack o' lantern back outdoors. Once inside I know that the cold will return quickly to the cabin. I turned out the light and climbed the ladder to the sleeping loft. I crawled into bed. It always feels chilly as I first slide under the blankets preparing for my nightly slumber. I roll onto my side and curl up a little. The hollowed light of the moon shined through a small window onto the dusty floor beside my cot. I thought about the barren Arctic winter and what it does to a fragile human being. Of how its' sheer heavy density of darkness and cold weighs on a person through the months. Then it came so piercingly, like a shot in the darkness or in a dream or it was a neighbor's dog? But I either heard or felt a harsh howling in the distance. A deep dreadful longing gripped my soul, as though being embraced tightly by a long lost love; or was it a strange kind of hunger? Suddenly, I had the frightful feeling of falling into a dark and empty forgetfulness, or was it sheer mindless sleep that took me unknowingly that night? I can only remember the howling, such a strange howling and afterwards a melancholy dream of wolf tracks leading away from me and crossing through the deep snow. They disappeared into an ancient moonlit forest.