Amazing how quickly, and how fiercely, we latch on to words to give meaning to what befalls us. Polar vortex. A rough, shaggy beast left the North Pole and descended so rapidly upon us, bringing with it a cold so severe after a day of mild winter weather, that we were stunned into paralysis. The polar vortex: the person at a party who violates boundaries; the woman texting while driving on the highway, veering across three lanes of traffic.

My bedroom windows began weeping with condensation; after sopping up water with a couple of towels even I, in a swoon of homemaking, realized this was not normal window behavior. "Polar vortex," said the super. (A helpful man who lives here! If only he were helpful!) Classic New York: Fuggedabout it.

I much preferred the term, Blue Norther. Partly, that's political: we are going to have to get used to a climate in which there are no boundaries to be violated--because our weather is getting more extreme, more unreliable, across the planet. And we are going to have to stop behaving like the careless text-er, thinking only of ourselves. We're in this together; the way we act individually has enormous consequence collectively.

But really, there's poetry in a Blue Norther. I'm the first person to go directly to an emotional analogue, so I began to meditate on how a Blue Norther slams the heart unexpectedly--a severe shock, an unexpected betrayal that slams you up against the wall, you retreat, huddling into whatever warmth you can find until it passes, and then you heal. We all know Blue Northers.

Meantime I am as far from being in the grips of a Blue Norther as I can get. My heart is spilling over, literally skipping beats, so that I have to sit down and collect myself, hold my hand over my heart to keep it from leaping out of my chest, and let the joy quietly swaddle me. I'm almost afraid to feel such profound joy--if you have a superstitious bone in your body, or an entire skeleton held together with ligaments of superstition, you're bound to think, oh dear, now something terrible will happen. Get away, polar vortex, swooping in from a place of fear, freezing the heart.

My son gets married soon: we are in countdown, and family is arriving from distant parts. He is entering a stage of life I didn't think I would live to see. I can shed the anxiety I had--so deeply buried I had forgotten it was there, but it was, all along--that our divorce might have irreparably damaged, if not broken, his ability to make a life-long commitment to love. Then, how odd it is to still feel fifteen years old, in my soul, and to see my son behaving in an altogether much more grown-up manner. And to see one's child blissful? His joy is a solar vortex, warm, cheery, open and sweet, lassoed across my path.

I am finally in my apartment, unpacking boxes, thinking, feet first. Next time I leave this place it'll be feet first. I'm also thinking, how on earth did I accumulate all this stuff? And I'm thinking, furthermore, I need never buy another: tea towel, candle, wineglass, piece of china, chair, photograph, or book. But none of that was ever about need, was it? Desire sometimes feels like need.

And I'm getting to know an entirely new part of this gorgeous city. Jane asked, in the last comment section, where can I get a tea cake? I wondered if she wanted something sweet? Many of you know that I am directly descended from Winnie-the-Pooh, up to and including a penchant for half-hearted stoutness exercises, so I wander the streets trying to pick up the scent of honey. That, and a Spinning Chicken (okay, rotisserie) are all I need to make a feast. I must locate the tea cakes that are to my liking--not too sweet, but sweet enough. For the tea cake you drink, pu'erh, go to In Pursuit of Tea, where you will find such beauties as Moon Cake and Blessed Forever Banzhai Bingcha.

No doubt a polar vortex will lurch into our lives once again. No doubt a Blue Norther will sweep through the sky, shoving us up against the wall. For now, though, I report from a milder climate. And how delicious it is to feel Blessed Forever.


Judith said...

Congratulations Dominique: on the upcoming wedding, on the new home. On everything! And yes, enjoy, enjoy, and savor this moment.

Tricia said...

I connected with your thoughts and smiled. Thank you.

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Donna Shaw said...

Dominique, just had to tell you that I was going through piles of old saved magazines the other day, and there was you smiling out at the front of them.

katrinakenison said...

Dominique, I just wish to say: I LOVE this post. What joy to hear your words again; as if an old friend has returned, full of news and insight, to brighten my day and enlarge my perspective and warm my heart. Welcome to your new home. May the blessings continue to pour down upon your shoulders!

Mia said...

How wonderful for you to see your son so full of happiness, when our children are happy, so are we. Its a special peace that descends over us, letting us breath deeply and sleep soundly, even when our lives are out of balance, if our kids are happy so our we. Settling into a new home, a wedding around the corner, lots of family, lots to look forward to. All the work you put into your son is coming back to you, giving you a sense of peace only a mother could know. Enjoy your new home and the wedding, then tell us all about it.

Linda from Each Little World said...

I'M thinking of the Judy Collins song, "Blow you old blue norther; blow my love to me." Seems appropriate.

Leslie in Portland, Oregon said...

Thank you for so beautifully sharing your joy with us. I too know how it feels to see one's child blissful...there is nothing like it. Savor and enjoy, and Congratulations!

Facebook User said...

Dominique, I have loved your blog for a couple years as I am going through many similar challenges you have written about. I truly appreciate you as a role model. I have shared you with grateful friends.
Also love a good blizzard for the psychological exfoliation and rest but this prolonged subzero was grating.

Virginia said...

Please don't worry that the moment good things happen you are doomed because bad things are waiting to attack you once you let your guard down. There is no good reason why good things can't bring more good things--or at least pleasant things. It's true, I'm an optomist, but I also believe that when we expect the worst, oddly enough, that's what happens.
Happy New Year!

William said...

Congrats on being in the new pad. Be sure to try 'new leaf restaurant' in Fort Tryon Park up by you.

Heard 'polar vortex' for the first time on Monday and was completely sick of hearing it by Tuesday. I prefer 'le mistral' - I will never tire of that.

sam said...

how wonderful to remember and recognize a long-buried fear, and then realize you've let it go...very freeing. imagine...in its absence there may just be room for a few more candles and wineglasses. and as someone who was once held together by superstition (okay, there might be a bit of that left, but lessening
) i can assure you it is wonderful to watch superstitions fly away...really. love and congrats on all the good things happening, in spite of snow, cold, polar vortexes...

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Jayne said...

So beautifully said; the fear of being happy is so real to many who cope with devastating happenings in their lives! I lost a best friend and my college roommate last year and I admit to being wary of "happy" at times. Thrilled to read that you are embracing all the good things occurring in your life right now. From my son's facebook page, he writes " Aurora watchers may be in luck for tonight." There is a lesson there for all who are afraid to watch for something magnificent happening!

Darlene said...

So happy for you!! Yes, it will be your son's wedding day, but you, the mom, have reason to feel a sense of accomplishment.. You've accomplished a major life event. You've raised a child to adulthood. Now you are about to watch your son take on his own major life event. You also have reason to feel a sense of relief. Your job here is done. Your son's problems are no longer your problems, they're his wife's problems.(Kind of a comforting thought, don't you think!!) .
About that phrase "polar vortex." Makes me think of the material used in making parkas. And your new phrase "solar vortex." Downright scary.

LindaB said...

What a lovely stream. Thank you, Dominique. So happy you are in a new time of life. One that gives new meaning to the word "abundance". Yes. How wonderful to feel the heart bursting w. joy! Hang on and beam away! And how nice that as mother of the groom, all you have to do, beyond dinner on the eve of Big Day, is show up looking fabulous.
Thank you for the tea shop rec. Will try it the next time we're in the city. Was just there last week for the snowy day and managed to find Le BoƮte. A destination for me, if there ever was one. Bought little jars of spice mixes called Isphahan/Vadouvan/Galil, etc. Can't wait to sprinkle them about.
Hope you are enjoying your pretty mauve salon and a tea cake/book, etc. Happy New Year, indeed.

Warren Sly said...

Congratulations (are we allowed to say 'best wishes' also to a happy mother of the groom?) Weddings really are the best antidote to life. It's wonderful to see your son facing marriage with eyes wide open. Tis a compliment to you that he should, having lived through the end of yours. Marriage is such a rabbit hole... but how can we not dare to fall into it?

Perpetua said...

Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts, on slowing down and being reconnected with life. Dominique, I'd stumbled upon an article you wrote in the New York Times and I wonder if you could help me with my study.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon :)

Prince Snow Farm said...

A lovely post….I love how you describe your thoughts of your son and his impending marriage. Glad you are in and happy..

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dominique, i ran across your blog in the nytimes (fabulous read, btw) in my attempt to figure out why sporting long hair beyond a certain age is considered uncouth and terrible by women. like you, i was run ramshod by my ever-practical mother who would regularly take me in to have my hair sheared into "cute" haircuts. hated it so much that as soon as i could be a mistress of my own destiny, i stopped cutting my hair!!! but i digress...
what i wanted to ask you in regards to your current situation, and your new found joy and happiness in the slower stream of life is, why does the slow life not feel right to me??? i am only happy and fulfilled when i am being intellectually over-fed and physically challenged. being home (raising children) is the toughest job i have ever had and i barely have time to complain about the lack of intellectual fixes or adult interaction - BUT i cannot look at this time in my life and feel grateful about having the time to do all the things that i complained i never had time to do when i was in my groove, working like crazy, and being creative. i cannot settle into the slower life happily. i do it right now, because i am responsible for meeting my children's current needs - but if this were to become my life - one of leisure and stillness, I would crawl up inside of me and die a quiet death. I can't do slow and empty hours - filled with possibilities. I can only do rushed and hectic days of productivity brimming over with even more than i feel like i can handle. but sadly, the latter is not an option for me right now. so i go back to being "useful", responsible, and eating myself stupid in the absence of the intellectual buffet i grew up on and cannot do without.

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