The Unnecessary Freezing of Water

I agree with Carl Reiner who once said he found snow to be an unnecessary freezing of water. Nevertheless, when last week’s storm dumped a foot and a half of snow on our lawn, I tried to embrace it. And embrace it I did, for about two days. Just long enough to wrap up a deadline, read a book, clean the house and surf warm vacation spots. Then I was ready to get outside and walk. To get outside, period. But, alas, the snow kept falling.

So, I did what any writer worth her sand and salt would do in my position – I googled snow references in literature. It helped. For one thing, it kept me from looking outside and shivering. For another, it reminded me that some people do find snow beautiful.

In case you’re in the midst of a hellsnowscape, here are some lovely passages to help you see the beauty.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

The snow did not even whisper its way to earth, but seemed to salt the night with silence.”  Dean Koontz, Brother Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel

“The old curly birches of the gardens, all their twigs laden with snow, looked as though freshly decked in sacred vestments.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“It snowed all week. Wheels and footsteps moved soundlessly on the street, as if the business of living continued secretly behind a pale but impenetrable curtain. In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.” Truman Capote, American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940’s Until Now

“It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.” Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

“I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snows I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day. And it was on that day I made the snowman.” Raymond Briggs, The Snowman

“Snow flurries began to fall and they swirled around people’s legs like house cats. It was magical, this snow globe world.”  Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.
 Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” James Joyce, The Dead

“There’s just something beautiful about walking on snow that nobody else has walked on. It makes you believe you’re special, even though you know you’re not.” Carol Ritka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home

And finally, to end on a hopeful note, here’s my (current) favorite passage about snow: “The sight of snow made her think how beautiful and short life is and how, in spite of all their enmities, people have so very much in common; measured against eternity and the greatness of creation, the world in which they lived was narrow. That’s why snow drew people together. It was as if snow cast a veil over hatreds, greed, and wrath and made everyone feel close to one another.” Orhan Pamuk, Snow

My June Reads

Summer has arrived here in the Pacific Northwest, bringing with it long days and a more relaxed pace. Over the next few months, I’ll be taking a little extra time away from the desk to reconnect with family and friends; to cycle and hike; and to do some day trips to the nearby Gulf Islands. But while I may not be as active on this blog, I’ll certainly be active in other ways. And while I’ll be stepping back from the computer a bit, I’ll still be reading. Here’s what I’m reading this month.

The White Hare by Jane Johnson

What the Dog Knows by Sylvia McNicoll

The Inner Work of Age: Shifting from Role to Soul by Connie Zweig

Books I’ve read to date in 2023: 33

My May Reads

                          

The irises are in full bloom, the Rhodos are putting on a show, and the peony buds are swollen and poised to open. Spring took its time getting here, but then it seemed to arrive almost overnight, bringing hotter-than-normal temperatures and a rush of garden-related tasks. Everything seemed to sprout at once, including the weeds. I’ve been busy pulling them out (not all of them; I love to harvest nettles for tea), spreading five yards of fish compost and getting all the seedlings into the ground. Luckily, I can work in the garden after dinner these days. Or at least I can until the mosquitos come out (they seemed to arrive overnight too!), but by the time they show up, I’m ready to come inside and pick up a good book. Here’s what I’m reading this month.  

All Signs Point to Paris by Natasha Sizlo

The Dog I Loved by Susan Wilson

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

Number of Books I’ve Read in 2023: 29

Eclipse Season

                                    

On May 5th, the first lunar eclipse of 2023 happens and will be visible from Antarctica, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Though we won’t see it in North America, scientists here are still talking about it because studying eclipses helps them learn about the moon, and the sun and how they influence life here on Earth.  

Friday’s event is a penumbral eclipse when the moon passes deep into the outer part of the Earth’s shadow (known as the penumbra). By scientific calculation, this is the deepest penumbral eclipse we’ll have until September 2042.

Eclipses, as you probably know, always come in pairs. Friday’s lunar eclipse finishes the cycle which started with a solar eclipse two weeks ago, on April 19th. People who love astronomy (and astrology too) call this time of year eclipse season because the alignments that cause the eclipses to happen take slightly more than a month to play out.

There are many myths about eclipses. The ancient Greeks believed that a solar eclipse was the sign of angry Gods and the beginning of death and destruction. On a more positive note, Italians still believe that flowers planted during a solar eclipse are brighter and more colourful than flowers planted at any other time of the year.

Lunar eclipse myths can be somewhat frightening, with many ancient cultures interpreting the moon’s eclipse as wreaking ‘havoc in the sky’ and believing that the same havoc was destined to happen on Earth. The Batammaliba people from Togo and Benin in Africa have a different, more optimistic take. Their ancient myth tells them that the sun and moon are fighting and that eclipses are a natural time to come together and resolve old feuds and anger.

Authors have also been inspired by eclipses, sometimes using them as important plot elements. Consider A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain; Nightfall by Isaac Asimov; Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King; Eclipse and Shroud by John Banville. And for younger readers, Sunwing by Kenneth Oppel and Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass both utilize eclipses.

To me, eclipses signal change and new beginnings, which happens to fit perfectly with the start of spring. Happy Eclipse season!

Happy New (Seven) Year

And so it begins! A new year, a fresh start, a blank calendar waiting to be filled. In my world, December’s snow has melted and spring is already on my mind, maybe because the seed catalogues are already showing up in my mailbox!

I’m looking forward to 2023. It’s a 7-year. And seven, according to a poll conducted by Alex Bellos, a mathematician and writer for The Guardian, is the world’s favorite number. That’s not much of a surprise considering the significance of the number 7 in society, culture, religion and literature.

There are seven wonders of the world. Seven days of the week, seven colors of the rainbow, seven notes on a musical scale, seven seas, and seven continents.

In Christianity, God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. The Koran speaks of seven heavens, Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in Mecca seven times, and in Buddhism, the newborn Buddha rises and takes seven steps.

In literature, Snow White ran off to live with seven dwarfs, Shakespeare described the seven ages of man, and when author Ian Fleming was looking for a code for James Bond, he didn’t go for 005 or 009; he went for 007. It sounded right.

The number seven is even important in psychology. It’s been proven that most people can easily retain seven items of information in their short-term memory. That’s why phone numbers tend to have seven digits (area codes aside).

Finally, in numerology, the number seven is considered highly auspicious. It’s associated with luck, intuition, inner wisdom and magic.

Happy New Year. Here’s to good luck and a touch of magic in 2023.

The Wrath of Poseidon

                                              

In mythology, Poseidon is the Greek god of the sea and rivers, the creator of storms and floods, and the bringer of earthquakes and destruction. He’s considered one of the most disruptive of all the ancient gods, yet he’s not always seen as a negative force. He is the protector of mariners, the patron saint and the protector of horses, and he was known as Neptune to the Romans.

Whether you call him Neptune or Poseidon, right now, he’s angry.

Last week, Hurricane Ian brought widespread and devastating destruction to parts of Florida and the Carolinas. Further north, some Prince Edward Island residents are still cleaning up after Hurricane Fiona and only now getting their power back. At my house, we’re preparing to move out while our floors are replaced because of a very small (and we thought easily dealt with) kitchen flood last March. No wonder floods are on my mind.

One of the oldest flood stories known to man, The Epic of Gilgamesh, was recorded on 12 stone tablets and dates back to 650 BC. And we can’t forget the ancient biblical story of Noah’s Ark. Scholars still debate which story came first. Regardless of where the truth lies, floods have been featured in literature for centuries.

The threat of a coming flood was used as a plot device by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Miller’s Tale. George Eliot used a flood to bring her novel The Mill on the Floss to a dramatic conclusion. More recently, Clare Morrall’s gripping When the Floods Came is a futuristic novel set in a Britain prone to violent flooding and ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus. Much more uplifting is the children’s six-book series The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston, which focuses on an only child sent from boarding school to spend the Christmas holidays with his great-grandmother. She lives in a mysterious and ancient ark-like home Green Knowe, a place regularly surrounded by the flood waters of the fens and only accessible by boat. It sounds magical and almost makes the idea of being surrounded by flood waters appealing.

But almost isn’t good enough for me right now. So, as we pack up and head to temporary lodgings while our floors are being replaced, I’m scanning my ‘to be read’ book pile for stories where water does not feature prominently. Something set in a dry desert, perhaps?

September is the New January

In case you haven’t seen a calendar lately, heads up: tomorrow is September 1st. And while the asters are blooming in my garden and the days are still warm, there’s a hint of cool in the early morning air; fall is definitely coming.

September always feels like a fresh start to me, a new beginning. Like every new beginning (writing that first chapter or painting that first stroke, leaving on a journey, witnessing a birth), there’s anticipatory joy and excitement. Out with the old and in with the new. New seems to be a running theme around here. In the last three weeks, I’ve needed to replace my cell phone and my laptop, and I’ve put four badly-needed new tires on the car too. I’m considering them my new year expenses.

I’m not alone in thinking of September as the start of a new year. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which is one of Judaism’s holiest days, begins this year on September 25th.  The literal translation is ‘head of the year’ or ‘first of the year.’  

The ancient Egyptians considered September 11th the start of the new year. In fact, this September will mark the year 6264 in the Egyptian calendar.

Fresh starts are good for us. They can lead to greater productivity and more willingness to embrace change, and that, in turn, can be empowering.

Plato said beginnings are the most important part of the work. They frame everything that comes after.

So, here’s to September. May this new month bring us all renewed energy, enthusiasm and opportunities!  

My July Reads

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I wrote about suffering through a cold, wet spring. But with summer well and truly here, it seems the weather is making up for lost time. It’s hot and expected to get hotter later this week. Our little town has announced the opening of a cooling centre at town hall where people can go during the next week to escape the rising temperatures. And I was happy to see them recommend a few other options, too, including the local libraries where people can linger, enjoy the cooler air, and read! Here’s what I’m reading this month:

The Last of the Moon Girls by Barbara Davis

The Inside Story by Susan Sands

Soul Friends by Stephen Cope

Books read to date in 2022: 43

Happy New Year!

                                    

Here it is a new year, a clean slate, an opportunity to release the old and embrace the new. Not that we need an invitation for that kind of thing; we can do it anytime we choose. But January, in our culture at least, is traditionally the month for new beginnings. Maybe putting away the holiday decorations for another year leads to letting go of past memories. Certainly, the house feels new and fresh and more open to possibilities when the coziness of the Christmas clutter is gone.

2022 is a six-year. Those who know numerology say this is a year to devote to home and family, creativity, and nurturing yourself and others. Mathematically, six is considered a perfect number because the factors of 6 (1,2 and 3) make 6 whether you add them together or multiply them. Perhaps that’s why many people think of six as a lucky number.  

In nature, the honeycombs made by bees are six-sided or hexagonal in shape. Many flowers have six petals. Bell peppers and tomatoes often have six seed chambers. When water freezes, it often forms six-pointed crystals and snowflakes.

Being at sixes and sevens means being in a state of disorder or confusion. Having a six-pack used to mean having six cans or bottles, but now it’s a reference to a set of well-defined abdominal muscles.  

In literature, book titles featuring the letter six are popular: The Sixth Man by David Baldacci; Six Years by Harlan Coben; Six of One by Rita Mae Brown; and The 6th Target by James Patterson. Speaking of books, here’s a quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. “Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” exclaimed the White Queen.

As we start another year with significant Covid restrictions, it seems an almost impossible dream that we’ll ever be finished with this virus. But, as the Queen encouraged Alice, it’s vital to have grit, courage and believe in a positive future. So, since six is considered a lucky number, I’m counting on the coming year to be a good one. And with that in mind, let’s deep-six 2021 and look forward with optimism to 2022!

That Pesky Point of View

To a writer, point of view is everything. It makes – or breaks – characters. It plays into conflict. It spins a story forward. In fact, no decision a writer makes will impact their story more. Point of view flavors everything in the story world.

It also heavily flavors our own lives. Today I’m going for my first Covid vaccine, and I’ve never been this excited to get a shot. Most of my family and close friends are on board and have either gotten their first jab or are waiting to book. From their point of view, the decision to get it is a no-brainer. But not everyone shares that sentiment.

The topic of the vaccine came up last week while we were walking Team Sheltie. We stopped to say hi and admire a dog belonging to a couple we’ve seen only a few times. I asked if they’d had their shot yet. They hesitated before responding, and I had the fleeting thought that perhaps I should have asked ‘how do you feel about the vaccine?” Fortunately, they weren’t offended and responded by saying they were getting it in a few days.

I should have remembered that hesitancy on their part when I asked one of my cousins if she’d registered yet for her shot. She danced around the issue for a while before finally saying she wasn’t about to subject herself to changes in her DNA or a possible microchip implant. She was serious, and I was momentarily speechless.

It’s a point of view, a perspective I’ve read about but never expected to hear from someone I loved and respected.  

Point of view is everything. Not just for writers, but for all of us. It flavors everything we do: our relationships and our choices, our lifestyles and our attitudes. It flavors consequences too. And these days, some of those consequences can be far-reaching.