There’s something about northern winters that draws me to the blank page.
Whether it’s a loose leaf sheet, a canvas or a sketchbook, I simply can’t resist the creative call when Minnesota is quiet and white.
This may have something do with our long winters. Too often, snow in the north begins to fall in October, and winter refuses to release its frigid grip until the middle of April or May. Even June.
Am I exaggerating? Maybe. Maybe not. We have yet to see where the current winter falls on the endurance spectrum.
One thing is for sure, the driveway to my place is coated in thick layers of ice. It has been since late last year, and that ice won’t be melting anytime soon. Even if a warming trend softens the ice by day, the glistening pools are bound to freeze again at nightfall.
Usually, it’s right about now that I start counting the number of times I’ve slid on the ice. Every year, without fail, I have managed to wipe out at least once during the winter. A careful step onto a solid sheet, regardless of my shoe choice, ends in a slick wipe-out. Luckily for me, standing only about 5’3, I have a low center of gravity. That fun little attribute, combined with a habit for hiking all year long, lends itself to a smooth recovery.
One moment, I’m up. The next, I’m flat on the rime. Then, before you know it, I’m up again — give or take a bit of back pain.
If I can make it through the winter and count the falls on one hand, I consider myself lucky. Last season, I think I even made it all the way to March, before I fell flat on my butt. The ice always gets her woman.
Making it count
Between the subzero temps, the noticeable lack of sunlight and this slippery slope, I decided to find a way to make each northern winter count. Not only was I determined to make the most of my time indoors, I was also determined to enjoy it. To be proud of what came out of the winter season.
One year, I chose painting. Another, I chose writing. Yet another, I chose photography. I braved a blizzard with my love to make the trek to a frozen Lake Superior shoreline. That majestic place is downright inspiring in the cold!
As for this year, the theme seems to be to put my talents to the test. On the last day of 2015, I finished writing my first novel. This month, I’ve spent most of my free time querying agents and publishers. Next month, I have a huge magazine publication credit to look forward to.
Without giving too much away, the forthcoming issue of Minnesota Monthly will combine my hopefully uplifting writing with an inside look at the beauty winter has to offer. The project has been an effort, on my part, to celebrate the cold.
To truly understand the season, we have to slow down, open our eyes and let the splendor in.
No matter how bitter the climate, how icy the path or how dark the night, there is always beauty to be found in the world that surrounds us. Whether we’re talking about the weather, our individual circumstances or even the people in our lives, I have always believed the beauty is there.
You just have to look for it.
A walk without cleats
On my end, this January has definitely had its ups and downs.
Then again, that’s always true for me in the wintertime. One morning, I’m admiring the artwork left by frost on the windshield. The next, I’m whining about a Vitamin D deficiency. I often wonder if it would be easier to live in a more extreme climate — greater snowfalls to shovel, darker days in exchange for summer light, frozen primitive beauty instead of moderate city slush.
It would be a challenge, no doubt. Especially for someone who refuses to wear ice cleats — a handy little contraption Minnesotans strap onto their shoes.
For some reason, I always do things the hard way. I’d rather slip and slide strategically over the ice and snow, than adorn my boots with metal teeth. I’m stubborn, in that way. I’m the type that can be seen slinking about the house, trying to pry a lid off with a broken can-opener or get the most out of a dying battery. Doing things the hard way.
Perhaps this applies to my life, too. Lately, I’ve found myself on the thin, winding path through the frost-covered forest. No shortcuts. No safeguards. No guarantees.
So far, I’m okay with it. Sure, I get nervous sometimes. Most writers do when they’re considering the prospect of dreams come true.
Maybe the creative journey is a bit like walking across an icy lake. Which, by the way, is a routine pastime up here in Minnesota. Several times a year, we cross our friendly neighborhood body of frozen water. Even if we’ve spent more than an hour trudging over the ice, planting our feet in two feet of snow, we can’t quit.
When we’ve come that far, we’re almost there.