Wednesday, December 08, 2010

This afternoon I’m huddled at my desk watching the shimmering cold back yard, the oddly-still frozen pond, the stubborn orange beech leaves contrasting so beautifully against the white backdrop of snow. Sipping my fourth (fifth?) cup of tea, trying to stay warm and wishing the frenetic stress-inducing holidays were over and it was spring.

But it’s not. It’s early (can’t even stretch that to ‘mid’) December, and winter hit with a vengeance as soon as the calendar page flipped from November. Bone-chilling cold, icy sidewalks, blowing and drifting predicted for the weekend. So many of our fellow mammals are spot on with the whole hibernation thing, what was evolution thinking taking us past that lovely notion?

I must make the best of it, brew another pot of tea, pull on another layer of fleece, crank up the heating pad on my aching muscles, and keep my numb fingers moving over the keyboard. A book review to write, an essay to polish and resubmit (after four rejections, but we won’t go there today), a novel to finish editing, and a blog to update. My own personal deadlines, sure, but goals are important no matter the source, right? And another deadline down is another day closer to the end of winter.

I just realized all three of my novels, each at a different stage of completion, take place in warm weather, April through September, prime baseball season, with the occasional thunderstorm to cool the air. Nary a parka, mukluk or snow shovel in sight. My characters bike and swim, they don’t ice skate. I have one brief flashback scene that takes place along the Lake Erie shoreline in January. It’s bleak, depressing, and I shiver every time I read it. Sure hope that means it’s good writing and I’m not simply projecting.

It’s been said that all fiction is at least marginally autobiographical, albeit often idealized. In my case, that’s certainly true when it comes to the weather. And while I heed Elmore Leonard’s advice and never open a book with the weather, it is always at least a minor character, reflecting the internal tempests of my protagonists and the battles they face. Like me, my heroine is gloomy on dark, cloudy days; on edge – or in bed with a migraine – when the barometer drops and storms threaten, and more likely to be cheerful and productive when the sun shines and temperatures hover in the mid-seventies.

But I’ve lived in Ohio all my life except for a brief four-year stint in Wyoming where the weather is even more volatile, if that’s possible. I survived the Blizzard of ’78, among others; you’d think I’d have this winter thing down cold – pun intended. Alas, every year it gets harder to face the impeding winter, and I refuse to attribute such reluctance to my advancing age. I’m simply more willing to own up to my feelings and stop pretending to relish the changing seasons. I’m all for the circle of life, for plants regenerating in the frozen earth to burst forth again in the warmth of spring. I just wish I could join them and sleep until the ice is gone.

Now where did I put those open-fingered gloves my wonderful daughter crocheted...

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