Tag Archives: winter

Musings of Hawaii

Rob and Florence, my son and daughter-in-law just returned from their honeymoon in Oahu, Hawaii. I dropped them off at the airport in Orlando and my grandson, Colby, met them at the airport in Honolulu and showed them around, since he lives there. While they were gone, Hawaii was on my mind.

I had visited three of the islands in February, 1989, with my friend, Joe. On Maui, we had arranged to go scuba diving one day. The prelude to this activity was to have a short lesson in the hotel pool to make sure everyone was familiar with the equipment. I was about to find out that Hawaii actually does have winter so, while the air temp may not be cold, the ocean water is.

I didn’t think that would be a problem, though, because in my formative diving days, my diving buddy and I used to break through the ice in northern New Jersey quarries before diving in winter. Hawaiian water wouldn’t be that cold, so… What I hadn’t taken in to account was the fact that I was renting my equipment during this trip. I had always had my own before. That fit me.

The “wetsuit” I was given was not a long-sleeved neoprene affair that covered all but my face like I expected, but a puffy vest that looked like it would fit an extra-large Sumo wrestler. My whole bony little 103 lb. body could fit in the arm holes and as for my legs, they were on their own. No other size was available and there was no way that vest would provide me with any warmth. My instructor ignored my pleas and told everyone to get in the pool. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. Not wanting to seem a sissy, I decided to “man-up” and shut-up. After all, Joe and I were experienced divers. Surely the two other couples, whom we knew had never been diving before, would say something when we all hit the frigid pool water. Wrong! Between them they had several hundred pounds on me.  Joe, being a guy, had more meat on him, too, so I knew I was facing a dilemma.

We all jumped into the pool and learned the vest held the weights needed to help us sink and it was also inflatable to help us rise in the water. Okay. The trick was to balance those two things so a person would be essentially weightless. I was used to a separate weight belt to weigh me down and the air tanks to provide buoyancy, but this set-up seemed easy enough. Next was the face mask. Can you believe my mask was apparently also made for a large Sumo wrestler? It didn’t come anywhere near fitting my tiny face. In the last fifteen minutes, had I suddenly morphed into a munchkin? Uh, oh, things were not boding well for me, but I didn’t want to ruin the dive trip for Joe, so I kept quiet.

To make a long story short, I spent all of my dive time trying to regulate my weight/buoyancy, clear my face mask of water and equalize pressure in my ears. So, my view of the ocean near Maui consisted of multi-sized bubbles obstructing my vision of some fish and coral, while I rose up and down like I was on a seesaw. Joe realized I was suffering from hypothermia when we departed the dive boat and the air hit me. He rushed me to our rooms and I spent a while in a cold shower to warm up, and gradually changed the temp to lukewarm. I was so exhausted; I slept the rest of the afternoon. So much for scuba diving!

The next day we went whale watching and every time I saw a whale surface, before I got the chance to snap the photo, it had disappeared, so I have wonderful photos of water and more water, port side and starboard. So much for whale watching!

The next day we flew to Kauai where it rained the whole time and our helicopter trips were canceled. So we decided to go shopping. I was lucky to find some colorful, thin wooden ornaments of Hawaiian fish that are perfect for my Christmas tree and remind me of Hawaii. Joe and I both bought exotic shells and had them drilled so when we blew them we could call the Hawaiian sprits to our homes on the mainland. And since I had had such a difficult time during our dive, he bought me a pretty dress to wear to one of the fabulous shows at our hotel in Oahu, the Royal Hawaiian.

Some things didn’t work out on this trip, but it didn’t matter to me. The Hawaiian people were so happy and friendly and had a certain spirit about them that I can’t explain. The scenery was spectacular and the food was delicious. I hope I get another chance to go. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hear all about Rob and Florence’s trip!

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland. Join her here each 11th of the month.

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A Rainbow in Winter by Sherrie Hansen

In real life, it’s called a bad case of the blues, losing hope, or hitting rock bottom.   In a book, it’s called the black moment – that devastating culmination of circumstances when all momentum comes screeching to a halt, when you think things are so bad that they can’t possibly get any worse, and then, they do – that time when all hope is lost.

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The thing that saddens me is that, whereas the characters in the books we write and read almost always come around to a happy ending, in real life, when we come to a dead end, we sometimes (often?) really do give up and walk away from the things that could bring us true happiness.

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We all know that summer comes for only a season, and eventually, must ease into fall – which leads to the desolate cold of winter.

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In some cases, it’s even given a name – SAD, or seasonal affective disorder. I’ve been prone to it for years. It can be depressing and debilitating. It can mean death to your dreams and the end to your goals.

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In my book, Sweet William, Lyndsie and William seem to have finally overcome the issues that are keeping them apart when tragedy rips their dreams to shreds. The scenes that follow are some of the blackest I’ve ever written, but because of the pain they have to work through, their joy is deeper, and the ending, more sweet than any before.

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When we hit a wall, we have two choices… we can crawl into a cave, cry ourselves to sleep, and settle in to hibernate for the winter, and maybe beyond.

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Or, we can spend our winters looking for bright spots.

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Because there are rainbows in winter, and rainbows in deserts, and flowers and dashes of color where you might least expect them, and inspiration in odd places.

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And the sun keeps shining even on the coldest days.

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It may be blotted out, or obscured for a time, but it is there, giving warmth and melting the snow away from your heart, and making you ready for spring.

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The next time you feel hopeless and blue, read a book, maybe even THE Book.

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Horrible things will happen, maybe even things that are worse than whatever is making you sad.

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And then, wonder of wonder, there will be a resurrection, and out of the ashes will come new life, and somehow, you will find a happy ending.

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Have faith. There are rainbows even in the desert.

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Life in Havre, Montana (Part II)

Last month, I told you about moving to Havre Air Force Station, thirty-eight miles north of Havre, Montana and six miles from the Canadian border. By the way, that’s pronounced HAV-ER, rather than the pronunciation one would imagine, since it was named after a city in France.

Life there was pretty basic. On the station, we had no doctor, dentist or minister. A trip into the town of Havre was necessary to fulfill those needs. We did have a small commissary that supplied milk, bread, cereals, canned goods and occasional fruit. But since we were all in the same boat, those hardships didn’t seem too bad. We shared the good and the bad, like family.

In the winter, that part of Montana typically had several feet of snow each year. Often, early in the morning, we wives were out shoveling our single-car driveways so our husbands could get up to the radar site to go to work, and we knew it was important to keep those driveways clear in case of emergencies. I’ll always remember my next door neighbor, Toni Spaconi. She was a little shorter than my 5 feet 4 inches, and one day we were both out shoveling. After about thirty minutes, as I looked next door, all I could see of her was the bobbing pompom on the top of her ski hat and phantom shovel-fulls of snow flying up on either side of her driveway. It was such a funny sight, I had to laugh.

Later, the wives would all congregate at one house for morning coffee and all the children would play together in one of the bedrooms. We rotated for a change of scenery. Since the winters were so cold, the base telephone operator would call us each morning to tell us how long it was safe to allow our children outside to play in the snow. All the moms would bundle their kids up in boots, snowsuits, gloves and scarves and we’d let the herd out, and sometimes only five minutes later, we’d call them all in again, unbundle each one, throw their clothes in the dryer and start all over again after an allowable time period. I remember, the winter I was there, we had a low of 54 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Because of the frigid winters, plug-in headbolt heaters were required to keep our cars from freezing up. To save money, my family’s car’s engine was treated at night to a quilt, a heating pad set to “medium”, and a blanket placed on the hood, inside our garage. It’s probably a miracle we never had a problem. But then, we spent only one winter there.

At the time we were stationed in Montana, there was a law that when temperatures plummeted, if you came across a stranded driver on the highway, one had to pick him up and take him to safety, and there was a steep fine for noncompliance. The possibility of someone freezing to death was very real there. That was long before cell phones. I imagine that law is no longer on the books these days. Luckily, we never ran into that situation in winter at least, but I’m sure it happened from time to time.

Even though it was difficult dealing with hardships, they were offset by wonderful people who became lifelong friends. Next month, I’ll tell you just how wonderful, especially after two particularly harrowing experiences!

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Clara’s Wish by S. M. Senden

Clara Lindgren stood at the edge of the desolate field as the chilly December wind whipped about her. The fields were barren now; winter had come to the land. The broken corn stalks, once so full of potential, lay scattered in the fields, the wind tossing them about as it played in the ruins of the harvest.
She felt that the land was a metaphor for her life, barren, and the springtime of her days were far behind her. She shivered against the cold that penetrated her thick, woolen sweater as she thought about her life.
She was twenty-three now and feared that she was doomed to spend her years as a spinster, to live as a maiden aunt and help raise one of her siblings’ children if one of them would be kind enough to take her in under their roof. Clara would cook, clean and do all the menial chores of a servant in exchange for her room and board.
It wasn’t how she had wanted her life to turn out. Clara still held onto the tattered hopes that someday she would meet that someone special. But that dream faded more and more with each passing season. Life was passing her by, and she didn’t know if there was anything she could do to change it.
She sighed, her frosty breath enveloping her for a moment before it faded.
A light snow began to fall. She loved the smell of snow, a cold dryness that tickled her nose. Usually the frigid fragrances of winter wafted on the wind long before the snow began to fall. Clara looked up as the flakes fell from a flat, leaden sky. She had heard someone call it Winter’s Communion if you put your tongue out to catch the flakes. She watched as they fell, growing thicker in abundance from above.
She could hear the chunky flakes as they plashed into the earth, landed on her shoulders and nestled into her hair.
Soon the bleak land would be covered in a beautiful mantle of white, transforming everything into a fairyland. If only her life could transform as easily. Clara knew she was shy, but she didn’t think she was ugly. She had soft brown hair that she wore in a stylish bob, dark green eyes, flawless, pale skin, an oval face and a kewpie bow mouth. These were the attributes that everyone seemed to want, so why hadn’t anyone wanted her? What was wrong with her that no man had chosen her?
Snow was beginning to accumulate in the rutted furrows, filling them up, transforming the land. Soon the fields would not look so desolate or abandoned with the remnants of that which had been once so full of life and plentiful harvest. The snow now covered the broken stalks, making them over into something wondrous, like something out of a fairy tale.
She realized that it was the first snowfall of the season. She could make a wish now. She had learned of an old French custom of making a wish the first time you did something, or, in this instance, the first of something in a year.
This was the first snowfall of winter, 1923.
She closed her eyes; she knew her wish by heart. She had wished it so often. She wondered if it would ever come true.
“I wish that this might be the last Christmas that I ever see on the farm. I wish to leave this place forever.” Her whispered words took shape in the cold air and hung before her for a moment and then were lost in the frosty wind that snapped them away.

To read more….Clara’s Wish is available on Amazon and Second Wind Publishers.

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Wildflowers in Winter by Sherrie Hansen

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I woke up this morning filled with sweet memories of a Merry Christmas spent with my family, prepared to do a “Twas the day after Christmas” blog, but then I looked outside.

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Here in North Iowa and Southern Minnesota, we’ve had a lot of snow and below zero temperatures already this winter. The forecast HIGH for Tuesday is -2 below zero. Don’t even get me going on wind chills – they were – 25 and -30 a few days ago and forecast to dip as low or even lower next week.

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Can you blame me for wanting to take a little trip to summertime?

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I’m deep into Shy Violet, the third of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, and almost ready to do edits on Blue Belle, the second, and relishing summertime on the Isles of Skye and Mull.  When I can’t remember the sights and smells of summer, I look at my photos and dream of warm days and starry, summertime nights and write on. It’s fun to escape to a landscape filled with wildflowers and green grass. Some people take a vacation to the south of France or Florida or the California coast. I get lost in a book set in the summertime.

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My favorite wildflowers are those that I find growing in front of a picturesque sight like a castle or an old church, a lake or ocean, a stunning mountain, or even those that grow in the front yard of my B&B, the Blue Belle Inn. If I were a wildflower, that’s where I would plant myself.  Life is short. It’s good to get outside and enjoy the views as often as you can.

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Wildflowers take root wherever they can find a toehold.  They’re persistent and determined and slightly stubborn, just like me. Many of them survived the last ice age. That’s tenacity!

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Wildflowers grow in a wild tangle of disarray. Although I try to make myself tidy up my house on a regular basis so it looks like a photo shoot from Beautiful Home magazine (in case my mother should drop by unexpectedly), it more often looks like a tornado just touched down. The truth is, I’m just not into neat, regimented gardens planted in straight rows a specific number of inches apart. I’m more of a wildflower and always have been.

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The heroines of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Wild Rose (Rose),  Blue Belle (Isabelle), and Shy Violet (Violet) – are all prone to living their lives in unconventional ways. They don’t like to be fenced in. They know how to make the best of a bad situation – to bloom where they’re planted despite that fact that the weather and soil and growing conditions are less than ideal. They get trampled on and they bounce back.  They’re true glories of nature. 

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Thanks for taking a brief trip to summertime with me.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the green scenery, warm breezes, and raindrops on roses.

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NOTE:  If you refuse to get in the summertime mode, you can go read Love Notes – it starts as autumn is changing to winter and ends on Christmas Eve. It takes place in Embarrass, MN, the coldest place in America.  If you’re in the mood for a good winter read, this is it. Google Embarrass, MN on Tuesday and see how warm it is up north! It’ll make you thankful for whatever temperature it is where you are. As for me, I’ll be cozied up, dreaming of roses and bluebells and violets, waiting for summer to return.  Merry Christmas!

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Spring by S.M. Senden

By April most of us are impatiently waiting the coming of spring, the warmer weather and the beauty of the earth awakening from winter’s sleep as Mother Nature shakes off the snowy mantle and bursts forth in color and fragrance.  I too look for the signs of Spring; the return of robins, the chatter of birds building nests, the first signs of plants pushing up through the soil, buds on the trees that will soon burst into flower and that fine green mist that halos branches of trees just before the leaves break forth and show themselves.

Spring is an exciting time, for nothing seems to hold still, almost overnight the world is transformed from the tattered remnants of winters last bedraggled efforts to hold the earth tight in her cold embrace, into the bounty of blossoms, glorious color and soft, perfumed scented breezes that invite us to come out of our burrows and dance in the sunlight of lengthening days.

The other thing that spring heralds is change.  Change can sometimes drive us all crazy, or it can be welcome.  Change can be thrust upon us unwelcome, or we can create some of the change we desire.  No matter how it happens change is the only real constant in the world, so we best accept the changes that are happening all about us, and look with excitement and anticipation to what is next.

Some wise person said that we should clear out the old stuff to make room for the new to come into our lives.  Spring is the time that this activity is expected. Spring Cleaning is something I have heard all my life, so I endeavor to take it on. I am in the process of cleaning out the old, clearing out closets as well as old notions that no longer work.  Somehow it is easier to clear out the old notions and outworn ideas than clear out the accumulated stuff that I have in closets and drawers.  This may really sound silly, but I have a goal to have an empty closet.  Nothing stashed away in that little haven of things I will some day use.

As I clear out the years of accumulated treasures, I make piles for the library, books I have read and will not be keeping.  I already have well over 1,000 volumes, with the many books I am reading, have read and intend to read.  Most of my collection consists of books for research!  IRS Tax Note!  For those Book-a-holics out there, having a thousand books or more really is a tax write-off because it is considered a library!  I will gift the overflow to the public library, they may acquisition them into their collection or sell them in the used book shop and raise some funds to buy new books.  Maybe they will even buy mine!

Another pile is for Good Will that consists of clothing, household items and other goodies they can sell in their shop.  I even put up a few things on e-bay to see if anyone wants them.  I am always surprised at what sells, and what does not!

Then there is the pile of ‘What on earth did I keep this for?’  That pile is destined for the rubbish bin.  Though it is the smallest pile, it is the hardest to make headway through as I try to recall why I kept this little memento.  If I really do not recall, why keep it?  It did not make it into the scrapbook, so it now gets to migrate to the rubbish bin.

It feels good to clear out the old; to give away what may become a treasure for someone else, or a book they may never forget.  I continue to work to that goal of an empty closet.  I try to do a little clearing out every day.  As I go through things, I stir up dusty memories of events past, some forgotten, some never too far out of mind.  I have a chance to dust them off, remember, and embrace the good memories.  Some things I will keep, but others are all right to let go of now.

In that letting go, I create a space for something else to come into my life.  I do not know what will come in the place of those things I have let go of, and distributed out to the various places in the universe, but from past experience, what is new that arrives is usually better than what I gave up.

I am off to clear out another corner of incredible treasures, anticipating, with joy and expectation the new and improved future that awaits!

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A Time for Every Season… by Sherrie Hansen Decker

One of the parts I like best about starting a new book is choosing the location where my story will be set. Local traditions, distinctive scenery, and quirky bits of historical lore can all be used to enhance the plot and bring life to your characters. Layering and interweaving them together or using symbolism to enhance the plot is pure fun for me.  Choosing the right season for your story is another fun exercise. My latest book, Love Notes, starts just about this time of year, when late summer / autumn is turning to winter.  The conclusion of Hope Anderson and Tommy Love’s story falls on Christmas Eve with a tender carol about hope, joy, peace and love. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about autumn and the images it brings to mind.

But first, I’m going to backtrack a bit. I have to admit that autumn is my second favorite season. My bed and breakfast, The Blue Belle Inn,  is named after a spring flower, and painted in springtime colors, so you can probably guess what my favorite season is.

To me, spring is a season of hope, and new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t start Love Notes in the spring. Because for Hope and Tommy, certain things had to come to an end  – die – before any new growth could occur. Dreams, self, old business.

I love spring, when the first blossoms start to poke out of the brown, colorless, still-half-frozen ground.

Spring has humble beginnings, and finishes with a truly glorious display.

Fall, on the other hand, is slow and mellow. It sneaks up on you. Why is it that we think summer will never end? I mean, we know colder weather is coming. Fall is about denial.

Fall is the season of being finished, pleased with yourself, satisfied and content. Fall is the time of year when the fruits of your labors are seen to completion.

Now I sound like a farmer’s daughter, which I am.

Fall is nature’s last hurrah.

Fall is frisky squirrels scurrying frantically about, getting ready for winter.

Are your characters driven – under a tight deadline? If so, maybe fall is their time.

Fall is yellow, orange and red… exactly what we expect, most of the time. But fall is also every color of the rainbow.

Fall is full of surprises.

Fall is hazy nights, full of dust and chaff, and beautiful sunsets.

If fall is hazy, summer is lazy. The time when we go on vacation, take siestas, and stop to smell the roses.

Summer can bring stormy weather.

Summer is unsettling, volatile. Things can blow up in a hurry.

Summer can be crazy.

Summer can be relaxed. Sweet. Wet. Wild.

Summer is a blaze of glory. Hot and humid. A time when things grow and burst into color. Everything is at it’s best in the summertime.

Summer is the perfect time to lean back and enjoy a day of basking in the sun or relaxing on a porch swing.

Summer is sentimental.

Summer is a time when I take nothing for granted, because I know it won’t be long before…

Fall. And fall is fleeting. The inevitable frost kills things, makes things colorless and grey.

And fall, after all, leads to winter. Winter…  it’s icy cold. If you’re not careful, it will freeze your little tush off. The tip of my nose is always chilly in the winter.

Winter is a time of desolation. Isolation. Winter is beautiful, even majestic, in it’s own way, but so frigid and unyielding.

Crisp, clear. Blustery, blue.

Merry, dear. Winter has its own set of wishes, its own brittle warmth.

Which season is your favorite? What time of year were you born in? Have one or more seasons impacted your life? After all, we’re all characters living out a story line. Wild Rose of Scotland, the book I’m working on now, starts in the spring when the rhododendrons are in bloom. But there’s a long, hot, oppressive summer in store for Rose before she finally feels the graceful acceptance of fall.

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Blossoms Where Once There Was Ice by Sherrie Hansen Decker

Some people call it “going through a rough patch”.  Others, ” a bout of the blues”.

Last year, my life was a frozen tundra of bitter winds, harsh realities, and frosty receptions. My soul got nipped by the frost. The edges of my green things shriveled.

You’ve seen it just like I have – the weather is warm and springlike, so you poke your head out and let yourself grow.

You start to blossom, and then, when you’re basking in the crisp, clear sunlight of spring wonderfulness, you hear the forecast – or not. A freeze warning. You try to cover yourself, but when it suddenly gets cold – unexpectedly so – there is going to be some damage to your fragile blossoms no matter what you do.

When we go through extended periods of ungodly, cold temperatures, our soft, warm, trusting hearts can turn to ice. We stop feeling, stop caring, stop hoping. The concept of spring is inconceivable when you’re an ice sculpture.

And then, something or someone brings about a thaw. It always seems to happen – eventually, usually when you have given up hope of ever feeling warm, ever again.

Don’t get me wrong… a spring thaw can be a wonderful thing, but please beware of muddy puddles and and thin crusts of ice that look deceivingly strong, but won’t support your weight. There is a danger, if a spring thaw comes too fast – before you are ready – that you will fall through the ice and drown.

My new novel, Love Notes, will be blossoming sometime soon. Hope Anderson is trying to bring Rainbow Lake Lodge back to life again. It’s the only way she feels she can honor her late husband’s legacy.

She’s starting to thaw, painting cabins, sewing quilts and planting tulips, dreaming of spring, when an unexpected frost catches her off guard… a banker with evil intentions, a supposed friend with a secret… ice everywhere. Slippery, cold, ice.

Tommy Love of Tommy Love and the Love Notes fame has everything money can buy, and nothing that really matters. His heart has been an ice cube for  so long that it may never thaw. Then, he meets Hope, and gets reacquainted with God. Will his new-found faith cause a heat wave? Will Tommy give up everything he thinks he wants to find the only thing he has ever really wanted?

So bloom where you are planted. Let your blossoms shine in the sunlight. It’s always the right thing to do.

But never trust the weather.

It can change in an instant.

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Life Inside the Book

I never really thought about the intimacy of the books in my bookcase until recently. Granted, this epiphany should have popped into my brain after my last post, but somehow, in the chaos of life, it slipped by.

Each and every book carries the author inside. No matter what the subject, there will always be varying degrees of the creator mixed in with the story. I have a host of silent companions waiting for me to open their doors and shares their lives. The most intriguing part is finding the writer hiding (sometimes in plain sight) within the tale.

Some authors purposely reach out to the reader. Like a streaker on a football field at halftime, some writers are so embedded in their own fictional tales I can hear them scream, “Look at Me!”

Others try to steer away from themselves. Those tricky little devils are harder to find, but not impossible. Unless you’re a robot, there’s no way to hide the part of your essence that becomes trapped in what you write.

As I pen this blog, I’m looking at my bookcase. Ernest Hemingway is too easy; he’s entwined in all he wrote (he’s a streaker). John Updike was perpetually wide-eyed in surprise and Dean Koontz adores his dogs. William Porter was constantly searching.

Willa Cather loved. Marlys Millhiser is always alone in a crowd. Carolyn Chute is on every page of her books (another streaker).

Writers pull from life. Joy, sadness, fear, loneliness: our emotions translate into words on the page. The seasons in our lives spring forth with the summer of our youth and the winter of our twilight years. We invest something more, though, as we plug away at the keyboard. A part of ourselves, recognized or not, runs through our stories.

I have no plans to write an autobiography, but I have already started. Every writer does. We put ourselves in our books and it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. What we write becomes another appendage or, in some cases, a conjoined twin (Hemingway, again). Sometimes, it’s an evil twin, as in the case of James Frey or, in current news, of Greg Mortenson.

It is said we are what we eat. It can also be said we are what we write, we are what we read.

How often have you noticed the personality of the author in his or her books, readers? In the same vein, which book hits closest to home for our writers?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Got Snow?

The snow pile by my driveway

     Every state in the nation, except Hawaii, has experienced a snow fall, or twenty, this season. I have no idea how many we’ve had since the first one in October, which was unseasonably early, even for Minnesota. It snows and we shovel. The snow bank next to our driveway is taller than I am. That’s a lot of heave-hoeing shovelfuls of snow, often heavy with water. The light, drier, flaky version is less straining to throw.
     The Inuits have fifteen root words for snow, about the same number we have in English. In Minnesota, most of us simplify to wet snow or dry snow. Snow with a higher water content works for making snowmen. Drier snow doesn’t stick together–not good for snowballs, but great for skiing. Wet snow is not as good for skiing or sledding. 
     Growing up in a northern climate, I took many inventions for granted: ice skates, toboggans and sleds, hockey sticks and pucks, skis and poles, snow shoes, and snowmobiles. The old expression, “necessity is the mother of invention” could be rephrased, “finding ways to have fun in snow is the mother of invention.”
     Then there’s ice fishing and all the equipment it requires: an auger to bore through the ice to the water below, adapted poles–a large variety from short ones with sharp points to stick into the ice, jiggle sticks, mini spinning rods, and on and on–fish houses with square holes cut out of the floors in the four corners. Some are portable, made of canvas, others are like little cabins, elaborate and designed for lengthy stays. 

A temporary village of fish houses on the lake

A number of years ago, I was at work at our local county sheriff’s department. The jail overlooked a lake. Two officers from Texas came to pick up a prisoner we were holding for them. One of them asked me, “What are all them little shacks out there?” I said, “Well, that’s a lake and those are fish houses.” He said, “Oh, I heard about that, but I didn’t think it was true.”
     It made me realize it is a difficult concept to understand. The lake freezes over and continues to freeze until it is thick enough to walk on, then to drive a car on, then to support the weight of a pickup. Fish houses are hauled out, sometimes pulled out by hand before the ice is safe to drive on. Before long, frozen lakes turn into small villages.
    

Hoar frost on the trees

     A lifetime in Minnesota has rewarded me countless snow and ice experiences, some funny, some scary, some fun, some dangerous, some painful, some calming. There are many things I appreciate. Hoar frost covering tree branches is breathtakingly beautiful. A good blizzard provides an unexpected retreat from outside demands. Moonlight on snow brightens a dark night. The way children look and smell when they come in from an afternoon of sledding delights the senses. I find the cold and snow of a Minnesota winter refreshing and renewing.

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County and Buried in Wolf Lake.

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