January always makes me think about heat. How I grew up in Thailand, one of a long line of sun worshipers. My mom and her Greek sisters smeared olive oil on their Mediterranean skin before laying out at the Jersey shore. I loved heat growing up, clung to it—it shimmered on my skin, shivering, equatorial humidity like a wall.
When I got off the plane at the Bangkok airport, heat meant home. When I came to college in Chicago in 1995, that winter was the coldest on record. My mom sent an email to me while I slept that first winter, the first year the computer lab sent emails from continent to continent: “It's beginning to get cold here at night. Down to seventy degrees. We're going to have to break out the quilt.”
Now I live in the northernmost county in the continental United States, in Maine, where we hug the border with New Brunswick. The winter of 2003, in January, the temperature here never reached 0 degrees, even at dead noon. Where I used to live, Bangkok, was once judged the hottest place on earth, if you averaged daytime and nighttime temperatures, winter and summer.
Now, when I chunk another piece of cedar against the back wall of the wood stove, watching the low angle of the sun cutting across the pines, I remember that shimmering heat. When I snowshoe through waist-deep drifts in single digits, I create that heat inside of myself, unzipping my down vest, unwinding my scarf, and realizing that power of the sun that rests inside of myself. I've spent the last month traveling from the place I've chosen as my home. I went to heated yoga classes, allowing the sweat to pour from my body. But only now, after returning, do I realize that the heat I've been looking for has been here all along, inside of my own body.