Sunday, January 16, 2011


The air outside is unbreathable.  We are urged to drive less.  Burning in fireplaces and wood stoves is forbidden.  Those with respiratory conditions are advised to stay indoors / not exercise.  It's a "red air day" - common for January in northern Utah.  Often the worst air in the U.S. at the time.

The mountains in northern Utah form something of a bowl around the Wasatch Front communities.  Wintertime air stagnation causes fog from the lake and pollutants from vehicles, planes, and industry to become trapped at low elevations where most of us live, while the air higher in the mountains is clear and beautiful.  We look forward to storms that blow through and clear out the gunk from our valleys.  In between times, weather forecasters tell us whether it's a green, yellow, or red air quality day, and we adapt accordingly.

I've decided that since I feel somewhat confined in my home due to the bad air, I'm going to make the most of it.  This is a good opportunity to focus internally -- on both myself and my home.  I am lucky to work from home most of the time, so even that plays into my plan.  I am wrapping myself up, so to speak, inside my home, giving me a chance for some personal introspection, renewal, and preparation before setting off on new paths and pursuits in the coming months and year.

I will live inside a chrysalis of my own making and begin to do the work that later will bring about subtle or possibly even startling changes.  For several decades I defined myself as part of a couple.  Now I am finding out who the individual is that I am.  Wrapped up and somewhat secluded from the outside, I hope to grow further into a person who is all me -- carrying all of the influences of the past not as baggage, but as formative experience and wisdom -- and transforming myself to step into the next phase of my development.

In a few weeks, we'll probably have our typical return to winter after this bit of thaw we are enjoying.  There will yet be snow and freezing, though the temperatures will begin to rise gradually.  If you're a gardener, you know the rule of thumb in Utah is not to plant until after Mother's Day when we can usually count on no more temperatures below the freezing mark.  Winter lasts a long time here. 

Oh, but I won't wait for Mother's Day to emerge from my cocoon.  I'll begin unwrapping the layers gradually as spring approaches.  As I feel ready.  I will emerge from this period of transition, conscious of everything around me and my juxtaposition to those things.  I have an unexpected and profound feeling of freedom and renewal this year.  I'm eager to plunge into a warmer, sunnier world.

I don't know entirely what to expect when the new me emerges from my secluded period.  For now I'm focusing on the internal -- discovering, growing, preparing.  When I do emerge, I'll breathe deeply of the good clear air, I'll stretch out my limbs in celebration of my freedom, and I'll venture into the beautiful and welcoming spring.

And then, we shall see . . .


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

I enjoyed the image of the emerging butterfly. I have often said I cocoon over winter months. But during such times it is usually my art that goes through a transformation. But maybe for it to transform I must too. I admire your intention during this time.

I did not know that your area of Utah had such severe air in the winter. I have lived in Denver when the air was toxic and have friends that don't breathe the air in Albuquerque. One has to ask what we have wrought to so spoil the very air we breathe. Not unlike London in the latter half of the 1800's.

Nicholas V. said...

That's no good... We take lots of things for granted and having clean air to breathe, fresh water drink and food to eat as given.
Godo that you used the time of your confinement as an opportunity for reflection and self-examination.
Looking forward to the beautiful butterfly that will emerge!

Becky Stauffer said...

Not to raise expectations -- the butterfly is, after all, 63. Beauty is relative at this age. But I'll do my best. :)

Jacqui, the problem here is largely due to geology and temperature. This wintertime inversion pattern happens every year. Our communities do what they can to mitigate the problem by reducing pollutants being added to the air. For example, if you light a fire in the fireplace on a red day, you can be issued a ticket and fined. As you can imagine, we welcome storms that blow through our valleys and scour the air.

Becky Stauffer said...

And right on cue, a beautiful storm just moved through not long after my comment, leaving the air clean, the sky blue, and visibility all the way to the horizon.

troutbirder said...

Beautiful imagery...except for the bad air. Methinks this air problem seems worse than ours here in Bluff Country. We can breathe our although you run the risk of freezing your lungs at sub zero temps. Think I'll head off to Florida.

Becky Stauffer said...

TB, I'm happy to report that we've had clear air since my last comment. A good downpour yesterday while temps were slightly above freezing really washed things down nicely. Temps a colder today but still sunny and the birds have come looking for food. Stay warm there. The weather report today for my friend who lives near Minneapolis is MINUS 18! Florida does sound awfully nice.