The way my body handles temperature is utterly borked. Most of the time I feel like a polar bear at the San Diego Zoo—my core body temperature always feels like it’s on the cusp of a fever, and I mean always. If there’s not some kind of breeze passing by my face to allow heat to convect away from my skin, I literally start to have fever-like symptoms and wither like an old grape. I dry heave constantly, I nod off, I sway back and forth, it’s… pretty bad. I think my body temperature’s usually somewhere between 99 and 99.5°F, so it doesn’t take much to nudge me into having an honest-to-god low fever.
To make matters worse, no less than two of my medications have a diuretic effect, dehydrating me and worsening these issues, and I also have crippling anxiety, which routinely exacerbates all of the above. Last summer I couldn’t even put on a bra without throwing up (granted, all my bras were way too small for me, but whatever).
I’m pretty sure the problem stems partially from my being intersex—from my immunity to androgens, and the fifteen years or so spent growing into an adult with a grossly deficient hormonal payload—but I can’t be sure. My body is really weird and I’m probably never going to fully understand it, but I know that none of these things were a problem when I was a child. The dry-heaving, vomiting, hot flashes, etc didn’t start until I bounced off of puberty (I didn’t “hit” puberty until I started HRT threeish years ago), and they’ve only gotten progressively worse.
Anyway, this puts me in a weird situation. Particularly these days, I’m basically worthless unless I’m practically being refrigerated. If there’s not a cool draft or breeze on me, I’m barely holding my shit together. This results in a lot of social awkwardness, given that my friends, being predominantly dyadic and/or cis women, tend to have colder core body temperatures, so we can’t ever be comfortable in the same climate at the same time. I mean, it’s kind of funny, but kind of isolating and alienating, too.
I hate (hate hate) forcing people to accommodate me, but I’m usually left with no other option. People can endure the temperatures I find comfortable, but I can’t endure things the other way—I literally shut the fuck down. It scares people.
Anyway, the point of this is that I hate the warm seasons.
For three years, I was stationed in Hawaii. Do you know how I survived? I spent a ton on air conditioning. I went to sleep every with an air multiplier and an AC unit hitting me in the face on full blast. I avoided the sun whenever possible and tried to stay on the night shifts as much as I possibly could.
I hate the sun. I hate summer. I hate sweating like a pig in public where everybody can see. I hate being barely functional when everyone around me is at their best. I hate spending thirty minutes on my hair only for the humidity to turn it into a stringy, bushy disaster. I hate putting sunscreen on my body and spending the rest of the day feeling like an oozing banana slug. I hate the long spring and summer nights of drunken college students loudly making fools of themselves right outside my window when I’m trying to sleep. I hate being terrorized by bugs and mosquitos. I hate the Fourth of July fireworks smuggled out of Indiana that scare the shit out of me from June to September. And I hate feeling sick all the fucking time.
So, hey, guess what I love.
Winter is my peace—my safe space. It’s the only time of year I function like a normal human being unconditionally. I love everything about winter—the cold, placid silence, the snowfall that makes the ordinary seem new and different, the crispness of the air, the way people huddle together and enjoy the night through each other—and I love the horrified stares I get from people when I wander past them wearing the kind of clothes they associate with springtime.
My body needs winter. I’m just built for it—it’s the habitat I was meant to live in. The warm seasons, the so-called seasons of life—spring and summer—they just break me down. But in the winter? I’m truly impressive. I don’t think anyone who’s seen me in that kind of weather could tell you otherwise.
So, perhaps unsurprisingly, I deeply admire Skaði.
It was my sister who told me about Her, and while I hadn’t been looking at the Norse pantheon (because of the lack of any real cultural connection to Scandinavia), I felt like She was a perfect fit almost immediately. I suddenly had a powerful need to develop a relationship with Her. I wanted to live my entire life walking through Her chill winds.
Last month, on the date the above selfie was taken, I wandered onto campus in a blizzard, wearing little more than a sweater and jeans, and just relished in cool air, the pale white clouds blotting out the sky, and the feeling of the snowflakes against my bare skin. I felt Her presence all around me and I never wanted it to end. I walked past other students, all wrapped up as though they came in the mail, looking at me as though I was insane, and I knew I had something special.
Basically—I don’t know why I have this debilitating issue with body temperature. But I wholly believe that, in some way, Skaði tempered it somewhat—that she gave my woes a silver lining. She blessed me with the strength to endure Her winters with an uncommon vigor, and I’ll be forever grateful.
I’ve wanted to strengthen my connection to Skaði, and perform devotional activities to Her, but I haven’t had the chance to really do so, thanks to the madness of the last few weeks. And, unfortunately, we are now entering the time of year where Her presence is less strongly felt.
But. Here’s what happened on Saturday.
I was in Maryland to see my sister, and I was invited to join her and my friends of The Fellowship Beyond the Star in a spring equinox ritual to welcome Persephone back from the Underworld. Now, I didn’t give this a lot of thought—it was a nice ritual with new friends, the meaning wasn’t nearly so important to me as the companionship and general sense of being pagan as fuck—but, well.
I’d been really sick all that week—mostly, I think, from overstimulation and anxiety, but there was other stuff there as well—and I wasn’t feeling so hot that day. To make matters worse, the temperature in the room, while probably generally comfortable, was my bane, so it took all my concentration just to keep my shit together. I didn’t feel up to drinking anything other than water—much less the wormwood extract—and I just wasn’t so much fun to be around in general. I couldn’t even eat anything, despite all the delicious food in front of me. It was all pretty depressing.
When the time actually came to perform the ritual, I was feeling veeeeery shaky, and I think that interfered with my ability just to enjoy the beauty of what was happening before me—I was distracted, more focused on trying not to make a spectacle than anything. I was lost in my own thoughts, mad at myself for not being able to relish in the experience.
And then, just before Persephone’s statue was unveiled… I felt a presence. It was decidedly not Persephone.
Skaði’s message to me was wry, snarky, amused—sort of like being lovingly teased by an older sister.“You, of all people, are celebrating Persephone’s return from the Underworld? You? You hate it when She does that.”
A sense of clarity dawned upon me, and I immediately felt silly—I hate Spring. The warm months are my misery. For me, celebrating their return is like going to the baby shower of a bitterly divorced ex—awkward and somewhat counterproductive.
I don’t regret participating—but there wasn’t anything in particular I could have gotten out of celebrating Persephone’s return, other than a good story. The beginning of springtime symbolizes the return of my misfortunes in earnest, and all I can do is hope to survive it until it goes away again.
Ultimately, the ritual passed without my addressing Persephone in any sense—I considered asking Her for mercy, but that seemed starkly incongruous with the general timbre of the ritual, and I think in general She regarded me with all the warmth of a party host who had no clue who one of their guests was. As soon as the ritual was over, I went straight outside to sit on the steps and recover, and despite wearing nothing but a thin, short-sleeved blouse and a skirt, Skaði’s cool, chill air wasn’t freezing—it was just deeply clarifying and soothing. I felt deeply cared for in that moment.
So, in the end, I still got something out of the experience—just not the thing I there for. But I’m glad things happened the way they did—I’m thankful for the reminder that Skaði watches over me.
This spring and summer, I plan to pray to Her often, waiting for Her to take the sun away, so I can feel Her presence around me once again and thrive.