Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Keeping Warm

We’re having a good old fashioned Maine winter right now. The snow is over my knees and the temps seem to be averaging zero.  I will wear my long johns 24/7 from now until March.

I started poking the fat stored in my arms and legs, butt and thighs, waistline, etc., and wondered if it is indeed true that these significant layers of fat are good insulators.This is what I discovered...

In order to keep our body temperature at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (a temperature scale proposed in 1724 by and named after German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit), or 37 degrees Celsius (named after a Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701-1744)), the hypothalamus - the brain's inner thermometer - sends a message to the blood vessels in our skin, to narrow themselves as much as possible. This keeps the warm blood away from the skin's surface where it is subject to cooling. Fat in our bodies does not have many blood vessels in it, so the flow of blood is slowed down even more when we have a layer of it under our skin.

Hence, having a more substantial layer of fat under our skin is like having a blanket of insulation. This is great news for those of us who live in Maine year round and have always felt there was a good reason why that little extra never goes away.

Unfortunately my ancestors - the good Italians that they are - decided at some point that there could never be enough fat under their skin especially when the temps dipped like they do up here in Maine. So they started bulking up in the spring and didn't stop until they got snowed in. But then they totally forgot to stop when they discovered fire and later, televised football.
I then looked at the goosebumps on my arm and decided they too must have some purpose. Goosebumps (a.k.a. pilomotor reflex), are a leftover from when our bodies were covered with huge amounts of thick course hair. When we got cold, tiny muscles called erector pili pulled on our hairs so they stood straight up. Our hair, when on end,  kept us warmer. Those little muscles still work as they did millions of years ago, but the concept doesn't because we just don't have the hair we used to. Some might argue that the discovery of fire also contributed to the uselessness of body hair and even more devastatingly, to the uselessness of goosebumps.

While all of this new knowledge managed to keep my mind off being cold for a few minutes, I realized my mind was beginning to forget what warm is. So I painted a memory of warm in my studio just like my hairy ancestors did in their caves - a skill still of use, thankfully.

Keeping Warm • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Cold

I went cross country skiing for the first time this past weekend up in Kingfield. I didn't want to but I did. It was cold.

I keep forgetting that it's possible to be out in minus two degree weather and be warm. You just have to dress for it, they say, and they're right.  But in reality the thought of going out in minus two degree weather is impossible to dress for - thoughts don't dress for.  The fact is, you can't think about it at all. It makes no sense.

We in Maine are masters of this insanity.

Cold • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Peaceful Place

I needed a peaceful place for my mind to be this week - it's been a tough one for this country.  I would like to get angry and stomp around out there, but instead I painted this instead to help me sort out my thoughts.

I need to understand how I really feel first. The real feeling is always hidden under the anger. The anger will eventually morph into frustration if I give it time and space. The frustration will then settle into profound sorrow. It's the sorrow that finally allows me to feel compassion for people who are in so much pain that they need to do destructive things to themselves and others.

A Peaceful Place • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My new friend

Meet my new friend. He was a Christmas gift to me from my good friend Ellen and is my first new friend in 2011. He also represents a gifting departure for Ellen as she normally gives a family in Chile a cow in my name. And though I have always appreciated the gesture, I fear she has also requested the cow be named after me. She's a good soul but enjoys a twisted sense of humor.

I can't quite figure out what's going on with this one yet. He must weigh 50 pounds. I don't know where he came from, what to name him - though Bernie has a nice ring to it - or where he will perch. I have not talked to Ellen about him yet because he was given to me cloaked way back before Thanksgiving - when she heads south for her annual time in the sun. In all likelihood there's a good story behind this, but it will have to wait until she returns.

In the meantime, he and the gaggle of live ones outside my window every morning will continue to both delight and torment me.