A Promise of Spring

The rain predicted for Friday afternoon arrived as snow. The low temperatures meant it stuck around, and Saturday’s showers were flurries.

Freezing temperatures aren’t entirely horrible. They turn mud into solid ground, which translates into less slipping and sliding and dirty boots.

Below zero Celsius temperatures also mean those nasty parasites that dwell on top of the soil and in short grass will die, making the pastures safer places for our goats. Goat safety is high on our priority list.

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Conditioning is not just for hair and athletes.

Diane Lynn Tibert
Conditioning is good for horses and writers.

Many times over the past twelve years, I’ve been asked, “How do you do it?”

The it referred to is the amount of words I can write in any given time frame. Usually, my answer is, “I don’t know. I just sit and write.” Or “I’m addicted to writing and easily inspired, so can’t help but write every day.”

But perhaps there is more to this answer.

On Friday night, my co-workers and I watched the wind, rain and snow storm sweep across the Atlantic Canada on the Weather Network. Supper had been busy, but as 9 o’clock neared, business dropped off; people didn’t want to leave home for a pizza. Still, the odd order came in for delivery. The driver would return, wetter than before, commenting on the wind and the rain.

We all knew the temperature was predicted to drop, and we all hoped it would wait until after we closed. But it didn’t.

Around 12:30 am, the temperature at the airport was still at 7 degrees Celsius, where it hung most of the evening. By 12:45, I noticed it had dropped a degree. By 1:00 am, it was zero. We stepped outside to check the conditions. The rain that had created large pools of water on the roadway and had gushed up through man holes had turned to snow, flying in the high winds as if late for an important dinner date.

By the time we closed around 2:20 am, the roads were covered, door knobs were frozen and white-outs lurched in the shadows created by the street lights. The 17-minute drive home on the rural roads of Nova Scotia was going to be a wee bit longer tonight.

With the cars cleaned off, and one final customer who blew in as we were locking the door served, we started our journey home. Right about now, some drivers might have been gripping the wheel with white knuckles, peering through the windshield into the dark night and wishing to be anywhere but there.

That was me last winter. But after driving through so many storms, getting home from work or getting to work, I don’t feel that way any longer. One might say I have been conditioned for the road conditions.

Instead, I settled into the driver’s seat, heard I’m a Wildflower by the Janedear Girls on the radio and turned it up. I was instantly transported to a summer’s day where I was running through wildflowers in barefeet. The snow-covered roads melted away and the white-outs conditions disappeared.

Mind over matter: if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

I put my speed on 40 km/h and by 2:50 am, I was pulling into my driveway, safe and sound with no extra worry lines.

Although skill has a lot to do with arriving home safely in a snow storm, there are many things that contribute to success: good winter tires, a well-operating vehicle, proper windshield wipers, winter boots and mitts in the back seat and a cell phone just in case.

Writing is a lot like driving in a snow storm. Some skill is needed, but other things contribute to success: a good dictionary, an eagerness to learn, a willingness to accept advice, books on various aspects of writing, keen eyes and ears, ability to wear another’s shoes, endurance, writing groups and workshops.

Not everyone begins with all these items in their tickle trunk, and for even those who do, they may not find the ability to write consistently. However, by utilizing these tools over and over again, a writer conditions himself to write more and more often. Whereas writing two hours a week may have seemed daunting, after a period of condition, a writer may write two hours a day without breaking a sweat.

Training to hike ten miles, learning to drive through snow storms and writing regularly every day is all in the condition.

Snow, Lovely Snow

Diane Lynn Tibert
Building snowwomen is just like creating characters except one is built with handfuls of snow, the other with handfuls of words.

Let’s get this straight: I love snow. Okay, maybe sometimes I think I don’t, but deep down inside, when the forecast mentions snow, my ears perk up and my Nova Scotian heart skips a beat. Is there anything more perfect than snow?

Can you tell I’ve just come inside from shovelling the patio, walkway and part of the driveway? It was 30 minutes of fruitless shovelling because the snow is still falling like hares and polar bears. By the time my son and I returned to the step, it was already covered with a centimetre of flakes. My son gasped at the discovery, but I smiled inside, knowing there would be plenty more to shovel come morning. The way it was blowing, there’s going to be drifts to conquer.

Snow is one of those things some people dread. But I think they – and sometimes me – think too much about the bad things of snow to enjoy the good. We think of the cold, but if we dress appropriately – snowsuit, mittens, hat, boots – then the cold can’t touch us. We think about leaving the comforts of the inside to deal with something heavy and wet that will go away eventually when the temperature rises. What we forget is that exhilarating feeling of being outdoors, the fresh air and exercise. It is energizing and uplifts the spirits.

Snow has a special quality that can’t be measured in centimetres or inches. This quality can’t be detected by standing near a window and watching snow blanket everything in white. One must be outside, stirring it up by shovelling it, walking through it or piling it into mounds to feel its magic.

I’ve felt it many times and have become lost in it. It is why I make snowwomen, build castles with tunnels and shovel driveways fruitlessly. It is why I set out to get the mail, spot the shovel leaning against the step and begin shovelling a driveway that would be ploughed anyway. I promise myself, just ten minutes . . . that’s it, then I’ll go back inside.

I’ve seen those ten minutes magically turn in to an hour or more. Once I get started, it’s difficult to stop. One line across the driveway stirs up something. I’m forced to make another. Then I must join the two. Back and forth, sometimes at strange angles, I plough my shovel through the snow. It is hypnotic, therapeutic . . . magical. Before I know it, the driveway is clear and a sense of accomplishment stirs within. I return my wand . . . I mean my shovel to its home and get the mail.

Now and again, I find myself looking out the window, admiring my work. A plough truck can’t create something that neat, that precise, that pretty. The truck can’t stir magic, feel it or create with it. Only hands can do that.

Some might wonder what’s going on in this crazy woman’s head and what does this have to do with writing?

Learning you love snow has everything to do with writing. Let’s get this straight: I love writing. Okay, maybe sometimes I think I don’t, but deep down inside, when someone mentions writing, my ears perk up and my Nova Scotian heart skips a beat. Is there anything more perfect than writing?

Sometimes though, to fall in love with writing again, I must begin reading the unfinished draft from the beginning, sit and dream about my characters or discuss the plot over a cup a tea with a friend.

Writing is one of those things some writers dread. But I think they – and sometimes me – think too much about the bad things of writing to enjoy the good. We think of the blank page, but if we are prepared – notes, dictionary, story outline, cast of characters – then writer’s block can’t touch us. We think of words as if they are things to deal with to get the story down, a story that may not be out best. What we forget is that exhilarating feeling of being in the middle of the plot action, becoming intimate with characters who jump off the page and igniting the fire that fuels a story. It’s energizing and uplifts the spirits.

Writing has a special quality that can’t be measured in word counts or pages. This quality can’t be detected by standing near a blank screen, watching the curser blink on and off. One must sit down, strike a few keys, put dialogue in a character’s mouth and toss them into one incredible situation after another to feel its magic.

I’ve felt it many times and have become lost in it. It is why I drag my leading men through the forest by their scabbards, swing my heroines from a frayed rope on a castle wall and send my horses to find their masters in snow storms. It is why I set out to get the mail, spot the curser flashing and begin typing the great idea that just popped into my head though it may not have anything to do with what I’m writing at the moment. I promise myself, just ten minutes . . . that’s it, then I’ll go get the mail.

I’ve seen those ten minutes magically turn into an hour or more. Once I get started, it’s difficult to stop. One sentence is written, then another. I think of a second character and write his dialogue. Then I create a setting. My fingers fly over the keys. A twist in the plot is added. It is hypnotic, therapeutic . . . magical. Before I know it, the page is filled and a sense of accomplishment stirs within. I return my wand . . . I mean slide my keyboard in and get the mail.

Writing is like snow: Sometimes we must remind ourselves we love it.