This Is Winter

 

Don’t let the sunshine fool you. I took these photos while standing outside in -7 degrees Fahrenheit/-21 Celsius air (-25F/-31C wind chill at the time). Lest you wonder why, I was on my way to start my car. When your car is old and you’re parked outside in weather like this, you need to start it every day, even if you don’t go anywhere.

The car gave me attitude, acting like it didn’t want to start (I have a sudden flashback to my teenage years and how I was in the morning), but I was determined that it would start.

The next day, the temperature was a balmy 14 degrees to allow for more snow. Wheeeee!

On the day that I’m writing this, earlier I crunched outside (snow crunches, in case you are wondering about my verb choice) to start the car and to brush the powdery snow off so that I could head to the store, since we’re expecting—you’ll never guess what—more snow.

At the time (6:48 a.m.) the temperature was one above zero. A thirty-two-degree day seems almost tropical. I can’t remember the last time we had one. Maybe the week before last? Three weeks ago?

It’s amazing what you get used to. I’m now used to the rhythm of going outside, armed with my tools, just to be able to move my car.

My best friends now.

  

The shovel is the MVP. Not shown is the windshield screen a pastor gave me out of pity.

I can’t help thinking of the line spoken by Richard in Richard III, Act I, Scene I—the first line in the play in fact:

Now is the winter of our discontent.

But you have to read the next line to get more context:

Made glorious summer by this sun of York

Okay, maybe that line doesn’t provide a ton of context. It is interesting how Richard is being sarcastic here as he contemplates his misery during a supposedly happy time, thanks to his brother becoming King Edward IV. This is not a post on Richard III, so I won’t go into the why of this, though you could check out David Morrissey performing the soliloquy from which the above line derives. (If for some reason the video below disappears, click here to view it.)

But the contrast of happy days (summer) to dark days of war epitomized by winter was too apt for me to ignore. And yet . . .

I have to let the temptation of yearning for summer, or even spring, pass. It’s so easy for me to long for what’s to come (warmer temperatures), instead of living in the now (the freezer).

After all, freshly fallen snow enabled me to spot these:

Coyote tracks from a couple weeks back; the pack has taken shelter somewhere else lately.

I’ve also gotten to know several neighbors simply because we were all out shoveling snow around our cars.

This is winter. This is now. And yes, that wreath hangs on my door.

When the snow photo above was taken, the temperature had climbed to 16 degrees Fahrenheit /-8 Celsius. Good job, Winter! I knew you had it in you.

Photos by L. Marie

Gripped


I always think of the branches of this tree as the fingers of a cupped hand. Yes, winter has a firm grip in this area. It simply won’t let go. Even last night we had a fresh snowfall, one of many we have had. Even as I type this post, snow continues its “take that and that and that—mwahahahaha” approach.

While I might think of winter as the ultimate supervillain, I can’t help thinking of Wintersmith, in which the late great Terry Pratchett depicted winter (aka the Wintersmith) as an extremely confused would-be lover determined to woo a love interest, regardless of the cost to her community.

The fingers of winter, which that tree represents, inspired me to think about the things that have gripped me lately. One of those things has been discouragement and rejection. Okay, that’s two things, you might be saying. But I typed one and the other came along for the ride. Glancing at some of my old posts (I don’t make a habit of doing that; from time to time I copy photos and links from old posts), I can’t help noticing how I use to write more from a well of greater joy. But within the last year or so, the well had run dry.

Even in other types of writing—short stories, novels, nonfiction—I picked at the words like a young kid might pick at a vegetable on his or her plate. (“Do I have to eat that? Okay, how many do I have to eat?”) It was just a chore.

Some of the feeling of writing as a chore came from discouragement over the rejection of others. (See, that’s why I only said discouragement and rejection were one thing, rather than two. Totally planned it. . . . You’re not buying that, are you?) It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve queried agents and publishers. Gotta expect a certain amount of rejection, we’re told. But every once in a while, it gets to you. I’m not made of stone after all.

And then last week, I watched a video of a guy singing and playing the piano. He had so much joy. And I realized what was missing—the joy of writing.

When I was a kid, my best friend and I used to trade stories back and forth because we loved writing them. We didn’t care about style or how “good” they were. We wrote for the fun of it.

That’s joy.

I let the measurement of others take that from me. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying I should never go through rejection. What I am saying is that I started second- and third-guessing myself because of what others have said. Consequently, writing became onerous. It bore a weight—the weight of trying to measure up to whatever standards someone else has—it should never have borne.

Please don’t misunderstand me again. (I have to throw that out there, because I’m really thinking this through and realizing things as I write this.) There are standards of excellence. I believe in that wholeheartedly. What I am saying is that I want to take myself out of the grip of a pre-rejection mindset—thinking that whatever I do will be rejected, so what’s the point?

If by now you’re scratching your head and wondering what on earth I am babbling about, think of this as a therapy session you stumbled into inadvertently. Or maybe you too have been gripped by something you want to shake free of. (See, that sentence was not exactly grammatically correct, but we’re shaking ourselves out of the grip of stuff right now, so . . . yeah.)

So I wrote this post and didn’t give it two thoughts. Just wrote it because I wanted to write it. And the fact that I wanted to write it—really wanted to—calls the tears to my eyes and a hope in my heart that I’m back. Back to joy.

Photos by L. Marie.