Union Suit, Unbuttoned

The way the cold seeps into the smallest crevice is the most insidious part of winter. An unsealed window, the drafty door, a crack in the wall – all access points for a frigid block of air that seems to want only to take up warmer space. Even though the Boston condo is buffered between two floors – a blessing for the most part – it still has windows at the fore and aft, all of which allow the winter to creep inside. On windy nights, if you sit near the windows in the bedroom, you can feel the cold coming in. In my first winter there, I’d light a sea of tea lights, hoping the small bit of heat they emitted would help things.

Long underwear and union suits helped too, and every year I’d stockpile an additional piece that I’d keep in the closet to amend whatever pajamas I neglected to bring on winter weekends. What had always seemed a rather silly uniform for vintage photo shoots or other nonsense turned out to be quite useful and effective. On one bitterly cold January day, I’d come into town with the sole purpose of visiting the courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The Saturday dawned in freezing fashion, and the only way I was going to make the trek to the museum was to pull on a pair of thermal underwear beneath a loose pair of jeans.

On that day, a thermal weave trapped a warm layer of air closest to my skin and I walked in relative warmth to the museum. Once there, the courtyard and its verdant scenery warmed in visual and visceral manner. Ferns and palm trees softened the surrounding stone, while Gardner’s magnificent art collection beckoned along the staircases, drawing me into deeper coves of beauty.

After warming my body and my heart, I ventured back into the winter, hurrying along to the condo. A pot of tea, a book, and a bed rife with blankets awaited my arrival. This was the way through the winter, through the darkest months of the year.

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