Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama is spending his traditional Christmas in Hawaii. I, on the other hand, would not trade the cutting cold for all the sand on the beach. That’s what I’m writing about in today’s letter.
Dear Mr. President,
It was windy and surprisingly nippy last night as I came home, so as my wife was getting ready to take one of our daughters to the dentist this morning, I put on an old recording of Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
She leaned out of the door of the warm bedroom. “Do you think that’s really a very friendly song to pick at this moment?” she called down the stairs. I laughed and went about my business.
I could never go to Hawaii the way you do at Christmas, because I like the cold. I know that I have just been conditioned that way, as surely Pavlov’s dogs; nonetheless when Christmas comes around I like the temperatures to drop right into the basement. I want my eyes to water, my fingers to go numb, and my skin to sting each time I open the door. And I want to feel that feverish heat rise inside me when I come back inside, as if I am suffering a brief onset of typhoid.
In the early days of the Impressionist movement, leading artists were fascinated with winter for a while. (Presumably during the winter…ha!) They dedicated a good bit of effort to painting snow, ice, frozen landscapes, brown trees, and bleakness. These paintings, as you might guess, are not their most popular and I’ve watched rivers of people positively sail past them in museums in search of the more comforting lily pads, flower gardens, and naked women lolling around at picnics. But I like the winter paintings, and I feel as if I understand how the subject attracted those long dead artists. I too paint, and I too have been drawn to the frigid loneliness of the shortest days of the year.
For me, the harshest days seem to unite people in a unique way. Rich and poor, old and young, black and white; we may suffer the cold to varying degrees depending on our clothing, homes, and vehicles, but we all feel it.
Much is made in survival books about the need for people in terribly low temperatures, to wrap themselves around each other to conserve the body heat the group produces. Many species of animals know it instinctively, (I say instinctively, because I’m pretty sure most of them don’t read) and as subzero winds howl, they will huddle together, creating a tiny bastion of warmth and safety against the killing cold.
So it is fitting, as far as I am concerned, that in this season which is supposed to be about giving, caring, and love of our fellow human beings, that nature itself reminds us: It really can be a cold, cruel world, and only if we stand together, despite our differences, can we all share the warmth that makes the bitter days a little less biting.
Enjoy the warmth of the Pacific sun if you wish. For me, I’ll be basking in the cold. But if you want to call and tell me how the beach is, well that would be nice too.
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