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Shawn and I are on our way home now from a short run of shows in North and South Carolina, where we encountered all kinds of warmth, both from the weather and from the hearts of those who came out to see us.

To our thin New England blood, the temps in Bluffton, SC on Saturday night were especially delightful – it was 82° and sunny when we arrived a little early at the venue!

We met a lot of New Englanders in our travels this weekend, many of whom moved south to escape the very wintry conditions that were actively bearing down upon our New Hampshire home and informing some of my onstage banter. The crowd on Thursday night in Elkin, NC collectively gasped when I told them that our beloved Mount Washington made the national news last month with a record-breaking wind chill of -101°! And I spoke to the Bluffton crowd specifically about the snowstorm that was happening right as we were performing for them, giving everyone a shudder.

And of course, as I was speaking and singing – and looking out the venue windows at the moss hanging from the trees – I was reminded that we would soon – very soon – find ourselves back in our little home, shivering at the cold that our bones have been eager to forget, and preparing for what’s next.

And what’s next is – we’re headed on silent retreat. If all goes to plan, we’ll be entering the silence for a 7 day retreat that starts this Wednesday in Massachusetts. I’ve been looking forward to this so much. As you may already know, I’ve extensively explored previous retreat experiences in this blog – and if you don’t know, go here to get caught up here.

But before that, there is getting home. I’m typing these words as we are pointed north on I-95, and we’ll likely be home by suppertime.

And it’s gonna feel cold when we get there.

And someone in the audience on Saturday night in Bluffton was thinking about that, too.

After we had played our encore to another standing ovation and the crowd began to clear, a woman and former New Englander (whose name I’ve forgotten, and I’m awful with names – forgive me if you’re reading this, lovely lady!) approached me straight away, beaming, and she said, ‘I put all the love and joy from the performance into my knitting tonight and I want you to have this!’ and she placed this beautiful, soft, warm, comfy new hat – pictured above – on top of my head. I couldn’t believe it! I thanked her and gave her a huge hug. Shawn laughed as he looked on and said, ‘You couldn’t have known that Heather’s favorite color is purple, and you couldn’t have known that she has quite a collection of knitted hats!’

I have mused before that my job, at bottom, is giving and receiving joy. I was reminded this weekend that it’s also giving and receiving warmth. I’m looking forward to wearing this hat on retreat this week, and remembering the warmth of kindness and love that isn’t registered in mercury, but in the memories that live in the mind and heart.