Visiting Snow

11 November 2001

Evan gave me the same line yesterday as Zak has given me before, the same line my godfather David started in with when I was maybe ten. It's The Californian Line. I'm sure you've heard it. It goes like this: "When I need to be around snow, I can visit it. And then I can come home. What do you need snow around all the time for?"

(Actually, even in Minnesota, we don't have snow all the time. True story.)

I hope they're all kidding. I hope they all see the difference. But just in case -- it's just not the same. It's not the snow itself, although the snow makes January tolerable when otherwise it would be even more of a wasteland. With snow, it's a pretty wasteland.

But when you're used to snow, when you're used to a distinct change in seasons, the seasons change how you're behaving. They change the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the leisure activities you do. They cannot help but change how your brain is working. And this -- follow me here, oh native and adopted Californians -- is not a bad thing for all of us.

I think there's a little bit of winter horror for each of us, a mild version of what some people suffer in the extreme with S.A.D. January is the month when you're most likely to hurl yourself screaming at anyone/anything, out of the whole year. (Unless you play football but not hockey. But I digress.) But there's also a kind of sharpening. There's an intensity to January in the Upper Midwest; there's a feeling that you can't reproduce by artificial means, and it's cumulative each year. Visiting snow is like saying, "Oh, I'll spend the weekend in Atlanta, and then I'll know all about those wacky Southern families." It just doesn't work that way.

I noticed something creeping up on me last year in the late fall, when the rains were just beginning in earnest here. (They seem to have begun at least in jest now. Yay, rains!) I kept putting stories in the winter. One of the two main characters in "The Empty Place" was Kenyan. I sent her to Michigan. In the winter. I wrote "The Last Egg," which takes place in a series of late winters in St. Petersburg. I wrote Minnesota stories, Maine stories, Saami stories -- all the stories I started from November through January had snow in them somewhere. I didn't do it on purpose. I just needed the snow. I needed that intensity. When I didn't have it, I tried to make it up.

We visit snow these days. Let me tell you: it's a relief, but it's not the same.

Heh. Kev was talking about my Jimmy Carter comment on the Tick, and he said, " Yeah, Jimmy Carter shouldn't have been there, though there is a cartoon episode where they go to Las Vegas, so they didn't abandon reality entirely." Heh. This implies that Las Vegas is part of reality. I'm not buying that.

Finished rereading The Sparrow yesterday, and while it stood up quite well to the repeat, there was a small problem. Now that I know how Mary Doria Russell edited it, I can see how her editing method might not have served her well. She read it through each time as though one of the minor characters was the perspective character, for every single minor character. And whenever the book has one too many perspectives or gets a tiny bit overpsychological, I have a guess that that's why. Ah well. I also read The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe and most of F&SF, and I worked on the Not The Moose Book and got an odd plot element going in "At the Bijou." (No, no, this is an old idea, you're not supposed to know what I'm talking about with "At the Bijou.")

The plan for today: Mark and I are going to try a new church. We've been quite unhappy with our old church of late, so we'll see if we can find one that's a better fit with us. Then Mindy and her boyfriend are coming over for lunch. Company chicken, of course, and probably salads. And brownies a la Mom, which are very important to Mindy from our childhood. Then we'll take a moment to breathe and print out directions, and then Timprov and I will head up to the pizza place to meet with the rest of the crit group. Right now the list name is BARF, Bay Area Rapid Fiction, although it looks like a majority of us are rather slow at the whole fiction thing. But while I have no better name suggested, I cringe to say, "I'm going to BARF today." So it'll remain "the crit group" for awhile at least.

Hmm. Perhaps its full name is BARFolomew.

And a happy Vonnegut's birthday to everyone. "Harrison Bergeron" shouldn't take you long to read in celebration if you've got it. Or you could go with The Brothers Karamazov, as it is Dostoyevsky's birthday as well. A bit more of a commitment, hmm? (I believe I've seen that poor man's name spelled about a dozen different ways. I'm sure David can tell me which one of them is right, or that none of them are.)

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