It’s a cold day that chills you to the bone. But step outside, and the sun will warm you to your toes in a contradictory sensual dance with the cool air. I’m wearing an old jumper, which is oversized, ill-fitting, and made for a man rather than for my slight self. It has three large holes at the back: one near my waist, another a few centimetres above it, and one travelling further upward near the collar that hugs my nape. Facing the sun with the holes squarely aimed at its warmth, I can feel the seeping heat crawl into the jumper through the unintended gaps in fabric. They reach my skin, and the chill of indoors temporarily recedes. Even my fingers, which encase a large cup of coffee, seem to cry out in envy of my back, and its three spots of delicious natural warmth.
I call this feeling, quiet straightforwardly, ‘Winter Sun’. It’s a feeling of stepping within a simple contradiction: the heat on your back, the cool of the day. It happens a lot in Winter, when the consistently melting feeling of Summer dissipates into changeable bodily states of delicious cosiness and numbing coolness. I can’t differentiate the pleasure of feeling my body cocooned by warmth from the unpleasantness of iciness. One exists because of the other.
I think everyone has a personal dictionary filled with words and expressions with a particular, individual meaning. For me, the two words, ‘Winter Sun’, represent precisely this turning of ordinary language into personal narrative. Not simply referring to the logical meaning of sunlight in Winter, they’re also associated in my personal lexicon with an awareness of the precarious nature of happiness and pleasure, balanced on a contradiction. Without the aching feeling of stiff shoulders from a cold morning, there would be no five minutes of pure bliss, standing in the sun. Without the trepidation of walking home on a frozen evening, there would be no indescribable feeling of pouring sinking limbs into a warm bed.
I worry sometimes that we’re becoming bogged down by the idea of a perfect sense of ‘balance’ and happiness, as a static experience that drowns out the negative. Happiness is not really about constantly enjoying yourself, but allowing yourself to value the moments that you do. I’m worried about this idea of feeling guilty for not living up to a perfectly executed ideal of a ‘balanced’ life. What does that even mean? What if the only pleasure you have on a long day is the moment when you crawl into bed? Does that make your life less worthwhile, less pleasurable in its small moments? I also worry that we’re losing our human relationship with contradiction; a state of being needed for sanity, in my opinion. Whenever I’m too harsh on myself, and others, expecting more than is necessary out of a single day, or a week, or a month, I try my best to remind myself of that Winter Sun: a precarious, fleeting and totally contradictory feeling of heat and cold, all at once, that seems to say: you’re in flux, you haven’t ‘arrived’ anywhere, and you probably don’t need to. Now, if only there was a way to bottle that realisation and open it up at will.
Images are all my own, words are from my notebook.