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tummo

Tummo...a true story

Tummo is a Tibetan word, literally meaning fierce [woman]. Tummo is a Tibetan word for inner fire.

I spent a couple of long bleak winters on a windswept spit of land in northeast Canada.
Fate had landed me there.
It was quite beautiful in the summer, but as the locals were fond of saying, "We have 10 months of winter and 2 months of bad weather."
There was plenty to do in the summer months, but unemployment
ran close to 90% in the winter.
Those long winters were spent in the taverns.
To alcoholism was added isolation and a catholic church that openly and terribly abused its people with seeming impunity.

I had not been there long at all when the young people started finding their way to my house. As an outsider, I was soon to become the 'safe stranger' that they could tell their stories to.
I soon became the 'designated listener' in this troubled community.
An outsider, perceived as a safe person.
I had few answers for them. Their context was too complex for me.
But they kept arriving with more friends in tow as word spread.
Every time I walked in the door and turned on a light, my house would begin to fill up with young people. Sometimes, when I walked in the door, they would already be inside, waiting for me expectantly.

One winter, I had a night job at a French bakery.
I had gotten home from work late one night...around 3 am.
The wood fire I had so carefully banked before leaving home had gone out
yet again!.
Too much wind. Would I ever get it right?
I was too weary to bother with the fire that night. I would try again in the morning. The house was freezing cold and damp, so I planned to sleep in my clothes and pile some extra quilts on the bed.
As I turned the light off, I heard a soft knock on the door. Without waiting for an answer, the kids just walked in and set themselves up around the room. There were a couple of new kids. They were really upset about something.
There was a crisis that couldn't wait! They all rushed to speak at once.
Finally, I got the story...it was bad.
So we started to hash things out and see what could be done.
Soon the pre-dawn cold was upon us, but there was no time to bother with the wood stove.
As we talked, I took off my coat and boots. The kids shed their parkas and heavy knit sweaters and hats. I figured all the animated talk had gotten us worked up.
But as we continued, the kids were soon barefoot and dressed in jeans and light t-shirts. We spent a few hours talking like that until suddenly, we realized that the house itself was strangely warm and that our bodies were quite hot!
One look at the thermometer showed that it was only 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

We didn't know what to say, but it was obvious that something incredible was taking place. Something Other was at work in that old farmhouse. We had been kept perfectly warm and comfortable as we did our work that night....