So… it seems that I (once again) survived winter in Minnesota (barely) and all the arctic wind that it brought with it this year. I can write about it now, only because we have hit the 40’s and 50’s and are a week past our last snow. As I look back, there were a couple things that helped me to do so: drinking everything warm I could find (ginger tea and lemon was my fave) and wearing hats and scarves inside.
Etiquette says that it is rude to wear hats inside, it shows disrespect in church, restaurants and other people’s homes. But when I am in my own home and I’m feeling chilly – my hat and scarf stay on. Yes, I’ve upgraded to lighter weight infinity scarves that you can wrap as many times around you as you want (double up on them in subzero nip). I’ve collected a basket full of light-weight knit stocking caps (in as many colors as I have scarves). I am not picky about where I buy these – my Whole Foods or a local health store usually have handmade gems on sale. I bought one with my son’s school logo – to justify wearing it to his basketball games. I even love children’s ones with frog faces and dinosaur heads. I almost bought myself a ladybug one this year to stave the mid-winter dulls and give me some good luck – but my son would have given me “the look.”
Gradually, I started wearing them while in indoor public places: the store, the movie theatre, even at my women’s choir rehearsals (I wasn’t the only one who did). Yes, the heat was on –but if I didn’t have a hat or scarf on I’d get chilled. I soon discovered that my innate need to wrap my throat and brain was actually a good measure of self-protection. With the wind howling through crevices in foundations and window panes there were lots of drafts this winter every place I’d go. No escaping.
According to Oriental Medicine, the back of the neck is very susceptible to drafts (and so are the orifices of the head, the upper back and especially area near the occipital bones). But the neck is a prime place for wind to “enter” the body and it is important to keep covered. When I researched the subject, I found that there are quite a few different “winds” in Oriental Medicine: cold, heat, damp, water, rash and various winds that affect the lungs, liver, the blood strength and body heat (like heat stroke). Wind symbolizes some type of movement (external or internal) that can combine with a negative, almost pathogenic, agent or response (or incoming germ) in the body. Ultimately the wind causes disharmony and imbalance. Many common colds, fevers, arthritic symptoms, edema and sudden rashes can be attributed to one of these “winds”. Most can be treated with herbs and dietary changes, but even though I’ve learned about all the yin and yang herbs to combat “wind illnesses” — I prefer the prevention.
So I thought about it. Did my body sense the strong winds of the season and caused me to binge-shop on neck wraps and head coverings? Or is there something rather intuitive about this ancient practice that is really quite sound and unconsciously understood. Some people say (and some study this) that you can tell the strength of a wind by how it howls through the trees and how far it makes them sway or bend. There are mathematical formulas for this. But what about the strength of the wind that blows through our body – do we each have an internal barometer within us to gage the strength and possible danger of certain wind to our body’s constitution and health. And does each body have a predisposition to withstand a certain temperature or humidity of wind and fear the others?
For me, I am quite fine with furnace-like desert breezes or even a gust of tropical beach air. I’m in awe of the people who love skiing – with the rush of cold air in their face as they catapult down the mountains. No amount of scarves could help me there.
Interestingly enough, the blood deficiency piece of Oriental Medicine and the wind that causes it, really hits home with me. You see, because of chronic illness, I struggle with low iron and this can cause an intolerance to cold. I do everything I can to plump up my blood via diet and supplements (and for much of the year I’m successful). But winter is its own game. I don’t consciously tell myself to bundle up because I am borderline anemic – it seems my body is really quite aware of the situation. It gets that winter and its arctic blasts is something to brace against. When I come in from outside and try to melt a bit – I notice how short my neck has become with my shoulders at ear height. My body knows it would probably survive better if it could evolve into a turtle-like neck and shell to hibernate with. My intuitive nephew even notices that his “aunt Cindy wears hats in the house when she isn’t feeling good.”
Last year, I promised that I would do my best to find affection for winter – and I gave it a graduate-level “college try”. But the near 7 months of brisk tundra really did me in. I fully appreciate my scarf collection and my own innate body wisdom to shield against the elements, I even honor ancient medicine and acupuncture – but I think next year I’ll be flying south with the birds…probably leaving just after the drop of leaves.