Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 27 and 28


Up early this morning before the sun rose, the streets dark and quiet and covered in ice; you could have told me it was January and I'd have believed you. It's cold again, crisp and dry, and the snow is staying where it falls, icing over in places where people haven't taken care of their sidewalks. I have about as much regard for people who don't shovel and salt as I do for people who see a word they don't recognize and tell you that you've made a mistake without checking the dictionary, which is to say, not much regard at all. In sidewalks, writing and life, a bit of due diligence goes a long way.

I like being up early in the winter; it's often the best part of the day. This morning, watching the sky lighten, I caught a glimpse of bright red clouds in the southeast and chanted the old rhyme to myself. Sailors take warning, indeed; the news was full of accounts of the devastating storm that hit Nova Scotia last night and left 40,000 people with power. I thought of my friends there, with their emergency kits and bottled water and flashlights, and wished them wood stoves and extended-life batteries. Then I put the kettle on again.

Much later, I taught my last class of the semester. A bit of review, face-to-face check-ins, and closing remarks: I meant to talk about writing, but I ended up talking about people. After all, that's what stories are about, who they're for, why they exist – if not for people, those ideal readers and fascinating subjects, why write at all? I'm afraid that I got a bit sappy, but sometimes it's good to remember that good writing means more than just proper spelling and syntax; that sometimes, if we're doing really well, we manage to create something with resonance, something that goes beyond due diligence.

And then the cold walk home through the gathering dusk, the interminable wait in line at the grocery store, the dinner of leftover chicken pot pie and the evening of knitting, the wool the colour of an overcast sky. The hunkering down.

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