December 14. Wind chill advisory: 15 below zero (F). I’m pretty sure that wasn’t in the brochure when this PA girl packed up her things and moved to the lovely mountains of Virginia (And yes, they are, truly, lovely—sometimes breathtaking.).
I’m currently sweater-clad, sitting cozily in my office, thinking warm thoughts about sunshine and orchids while a Katy Perry song runs through my head (Can you guess which one?).
As much as I might love sunny weather—sitting on a blanket next to my dog while I wear flip-flops and a tank top and scribble poetry in my journal; or thinking thoughts about the goddess while I plant seeds in the tiny container garden on my balcony—I try to remind myself that raindrops and snowflakes also contain the potential for countless stories.
In college, I sat in the lobby of the “humanities” building on my undergraduate campus, talking with a much-admired professor about the creative process. We both admired the inspirational power that rainy days hold over writers. I think that cloudy, blustery days in general force us toward an introspection that can propel the creative process forward.
In the PA mountains, it snows November through March, sometimes starting in October and carrying on into April. The warmth of stories provided a cozy refuge, but art also provided a vehicle for the exploration of winter: its meaning, its potential. The short collection of poetry I wrote that semester, under that professor’s guidance, was aptly entitled, “What the Heart Thought of, That Winter, Spent Frozen in the Pond.” On the cover, I printed a photo I’d taken of the pond behind my familial home, of water reeds bent frozen and bedecked in frost and snow, leaning over the icy surface of the pond, while leafless trees stood behind in a seemingly reflective state. And among the sleepy trees were evergreens, reminding us of the potential of life.
Maybe the Virginia summers have spoiled me, but winter seems longer and more brutal each year. I try to remember that winter is a season of quiet introspection before the fertility of spring, that it contains in it the sleeping seeds of another year. There is something to be learned from cold, from dark, from clouds, from frozen rain and snow.
And there must be, because so many of my stories find inspiration in the rain, in the winter, in the cold or in the dark. I met a character one night as I lay in bed, nestled under blankets and protected from the cold. I saw the scene: Rain poured down, and she stood at the window with her face pressed against the glass. She was waiting for something, but I didn’t know what. She was searching for something, but she didn’t know how to find it. Something was lost. There was sadness in her eyes and potential in her story.
So maybe today I’ll work up the nerve to walk over to Starbucks and buy myself a chai tea latte (I doubt it.). At the very least, this evening I will hole up in my office and listen to the wind while I curl up, sipping tea (brewed in my kitchen). And when the wind howls outside and hurls itself at the window, I’ll listen for stories.
And I’ll only whine “a little” when I have to walk the dogs.