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It is late October, and in Montana that means that our brief autumn is drawing to a close. In the shadows, the frost doesn't melt until noon. The relentless nature of the sun's lowering elliptical path means that in a short week or two, the frost might not melt at all. The surrounding mountains have had snow for the past month. The snow level goes up and down, like a cat slinking around a person they aren't sure of yet. Before long that snow will come down to cover things. In the years I've been here, I've only seen one with truly seasonal snow, where snow fell and stayed on the ground for a month or two. But there will probably still be enough snow to discourage much activity, especially combined with the short hours of daylight. The outside world ceases to be an opportunity, and becomes a threat, a place to be navigated as quickly as possible before scurrying back inside.

The upside to this is that for the next three months, I have an excuse to do nothing. I can stay inside and wrap myself up in literal and metaphorical warmth, because the outside world is pretty strict about forbidding exploration and growth. Sometimes we need an excuse to get into a rut, and a Montana winter is certainly a good excuse.

I think it was two winters ago that I spent a month or so grinding through Final Fantasy V, running in circles hitting buttons to master the games two dozen job classes. Games are closed systems, and they are also identical every time you return to them. Its pretty easy to get into a game and immerse yourself in its circular nature. These games are fulfilling not in spite of, but because of, the fact that they are closed worlds with no real rewards or challenges. But once you wrap yourself up in a game, its easy to forget that there is an outside world with challenges and threats and opportunities.

There is a tendency to look back at times of our lives, and to see them in retrospect as self-contained and linear. We remember our identity, our interests, and our environment as all fitting together perfectly. Of course, there is always a little bit of anxiety and dysphoria in our lives, a slight desynchronization with our environment. In retrospect, there are times in my life that seem to be a cocoon of blind oblivion, full of cheetoh dust and electronic entertainment; but I am sure during those times I had one hundred and one anxieties pulling at me.

But two years ago, I still thought of death as a theoretical thing. I knew it was out there "eventually", but I had made it to the age of thirty with only two people my age I knew dying: both tragic and unforeseen. Sometime in 2011, reality decided to wake me up, with more and more people I knew around my age passing away, many in outlandish ways. Only a month ago, Qousqous was here and I said with black humor: "It's been a whole month now since anyone we knew died". Since then, two people I have known died of cancer. Where death used to be a theoretical thing that I could ignore outside my bubble, I am now having trouble convincing myself that I can just put aside three months for stasis, for imagining the world will stay as it is, that we will all continue to play a game that has set rules and a set environment. The possibility of death is the possibility of change, of reversal, of rebirth, of the uncanny dysphoria that lets us know the world is bigger than what we have boxed it into.

That is very nice, but right now I want the winter to keep me warm. I want to wrap up in my snuggie with some hot chocolate and a pile of comic books, and I want to not be unseated or uprooted by any crises, and I want to pretend that my focal length only extends this far, and I want to do this until, oh, next February. TIA, Universe!

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