I’ve had many conversations now with friends, and we all seem to agree on a strange matter – that this winter has been and is particularly a harsh one for many of us in general. It’s not that western countries like United Kingdom haven’t had winters – with snow and arctic winds. In fact the actual number of snow-fall in UK these past winter weeks have not been spectacular (even by last year’s or the previous year’s standards of snow fall and resulting disruptions to trains/ cars and travels). Yes, so there are some really chilly winds coming from Europe over the UK. No big deal.
So why do we feel it to be so harsh? The answer has to be money – or lack of it! What with the financial hardships, collapsing economies, heavy budget cuts, increased taxes and expenses..and really drastic job losses in almost all public sector works (and the banking collapse crisis!!).. people are not just `feeling the pinch’ as politicians like to narrate nicely.. No! People are actually really very poor!! And people are really suffering and struggling for not just the lost luxuries but daily expenses of survival – food, clothing, and mainly water & heating bills…on top of all the other bills, loan repayments etc.
People are wrapping up in many layers of cloths; people are cutting out majority of travels (expense!) and only going out for work or other essentials; People are not using heaters at homes – avoiding it as much as possible, and using it only a few hours a day; or worse, people are facing wear & tear or technical faulty boilers and heaters…but can’t seem to afford repair costs.
Am not just talking out of hypothetical here. Those things that apply to `people’ – every single one above applies to me. For example , about 3 weeks ago (during that snow period), my partner’s home had problems with a minor timer/ electronic fault within the heating system.. and getting it repaired took over a week.. At least we had hot water (which we rationed switching on for half an hour a day.. You try washing a lot of dishes in freezing cold tap water for more than a minute..and you’ll know what am talking about). I visited my mother’s place.. and there the whole combination boiler system had stopped working. She had insurance and repair cover, so called for repairs, and they came to repair. And it worked..and then stopped. So they were called again.. They fixed it..or ordered parts…that took a week to arrive.. and then it failed ..This went on for 5 times…and over a total period of 20+ days…And in all that time.. the house was freezing..and no hot water either.
It’s only in those moments that realisation came. That this is just a few weeks of pain and suffering for us in a modern western world with so much other luxuries. But imagine the people who lived in poverty. And imagine the old tribal or rural societies who most likely feared and dreaded Winter. At times in those past few weeks I had really wished matters will be sorted and held for the day our boilers will be fixed. But what if people had none of those luxuries of knowing? What of people who just simply had to live through months and months of harsh winter cold, with gradually decreasing food supplies..?
It’s not hard to imagine in such situations, people would suspend all but essential activities, and spend more time wrapped up keeping warm ..(in unwashed cloths!) Sharing hearth fire, or even communal village fires.. (some of us can and do go camping for few days or weeks per year at a time.. But camping in harsh winter times…day after day..with no guarantee of when release and warmth will come.. that has to be hard!!)
My family wasn’t born with any sort of silver spoons in mouth. My parents worked hard – always- to keep our families just above the basic survival line (and even then there have been childhood days where my mother has gone with low food, so my sisters & I can eat and go to school. I even recall my mum collecting old news papers around the house and taking that to a recycling buyer for few rupees ..in Sri Lanka.. in my childhood days… to get extra few Rupees for food and weekly costs. (My mother probably thinks I don’t remember any of it). There have been times, when i myself have refused certain food or sweets, on the pretense that I don’t like it…so that more can be given to my sisters. No we weren’t born with silver spoons.. but we lived through those hard years…and we are here!
I was reminded of all these old memories.. as current financial circumstances have a certain resonance to the past.
And this Winter,after being in the UK for over 25 years, is probably my first true Winter… where I have felt what it is to be in Winter.
And there are heartfelt moments, where I have really called out to the Winter Goddess, to go easy on us.
Suddenly, the `magical invocations and plea’ written years ago for some indoor ritual starts to mean something deep and true. It’s no longer just magical ritual theatrics. This one is real now.
” Lady of Winter
Lady of Ice and Shadows
You who sweeps the warmth away from the land
And guards the dark and reaming times.
Yours the cold hard ground
Yours the domain o the dark and still Earth..
..where seeds of our Harvest sleep,
..awaiting light, love and new growth.
Mother of the Midnight Sun
Empress of magic and Winter mysteries
Ruler of stillness and Silence.
Within you lies the joy –
and mysteries of every tomb,
The blessings of peace and rebirth.
Lady of Winter, leave us now, we ask thee.
Lady of Ice and shadows, leave us now, we beg thee.
Dark mother, Return to your caverns,
Mistress of magic, Return to your realms in space.
Lady of Winter Leave us now,
..that the Goddess of Spring may arrive..”
(c) Mani Navasothy 2012
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