Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Longest Winter

Every time the thought of writing drifted through my brain cavity this winter it just as ephemerally drifted right back out, along with whatever residue of creative energy might have even prompted the thought. This season of oppressive yuck in the form of snow, ice, rain, cold, gray dimness practically turned me into some withered exoskeleton, a dry brown cicada shell clinging to a barren sapling.

Mid-December the snow began, two days after I put a hole in my oil pan navigating my driveway. I was borrowing my friend's Subaru for several hours trying to get my only Christmas shopping at least halfway taken care of, and the flakes started falling, and sticking, and soon the wipers were sweeping heaps of it off the windshield. I drove the vehicle back to Keith, its owner, and sat down with him and his dad for a few minutes to have a drink and then be driven home. An hour passed before we made it out the door, and we stepped out in the snow, now well past ankle-deep. An attempt at reversing out the driveway spun us out sideways, so the three of us pulled our puffy-jacketed selves back out of the car to do some kicking and shoveling while the car warmed up some more. After a couple of minutes we tug on the doors to find them all locked. The car purred gamely away, heater cranked, windows closed tightly.

A few hours later found the car still running outside and me still in Keith's living room, knowing that because two feet of snow had now fallen that the aid which AAA summoned wasn't coming. There were hundreds of people stranded on the side of the highways tonight. My housemate Erin had finally decided to spend her first night at our new place, and after having been there a couple of weeks alone here I was going to miss having a celebratory breakfast with her in the morning. At midnight I figured I may as well take a hike, and Keith gamely agreed to walk me partway home. I knew it was about three miles of winding country road between our houses, and the snow had made the roads as quiet as the forest, and for once I was unafraid of walking outside alone in the dark here.

West Virginia scares me for a few reasons, which I'll go into some other time, I'm sure, but that night I felt a lot more connected to the world around me because everyone in the area was also stuck inside their houses or, like the deer and the possums, wandering around through the powder. Keith and I built a snow caterpillar dead center of the road, wondering to each other how long it would last before a tow-truck would annihilate it. After two miles a tow truck pulled alongside us and asked if we needed a ride. Keith said he would head back home, happy to stay out of the house for awhile.

I leaned in the truck and asked the pair of men, "You're not axe murderers, are you?" They both laughed and the driver said, "There's only one way to find out." So I climbed in, laughing, too, but also wondering if I should have them drop me off at my actual driveway or at somebody else's, because I'm paranoid.

A few minutes later they let me out at the right place, and I hiked another fifteen minutes through the snow down the driveway, thus setting a theme for much of the winter, that of hiking down and up and down again, through snow and cold and later, rain and sleet. There would be icy puddles covered in fluff that I would step into on every trip, accidentally, and sore shoulders and backs from carrying all I could up and down it as I and whoever else I was with needed to. There would be my house, practically empty half the winter because I had no way to move my stuff in.

And, of course, there would be me feeling depressed and useless because I couldn't play outside, because I was trapped, usually alone, in a desolate spot in the woods with no means of defending myself, in a cold house, mad at myself for moving here, for buying this place, for jumping into something without thinking about it long enough, for being stupid.

Erin was busy falling in love, and I was busy thinking all the time, feeling regretful, worrying about him moving in because he was a critic and because they were a couple, worrying about me and her and us not feeling so compatible after all and not knowing how to vocalize it, and simply becoming more and more withdrawn. What was I thinking? I asked myself over and over.

And one day she made it all easier by saying that he didn't want to buy into a house that wouldn't be theirs and that was outside of town, and I said what I was thinking and the fears I had, and after a bit she moved in with him. I was sad to be alone in that house, but happy that I would be putting my energy into something entirely my own now, in the ways I wanted to. I had also realized I didn't want to do anything like this with someone I wasn't in love with. She and I seemed to both be happy, most importantly.

So the winter has been so long, and still depressing, but we've had patches of sun over the past few weeks, and they've been enough to send my mood soaring. I've remembered why it is I wanted to live here, though I still ask myself regularly, "What was I thinking?" I still wonder how I can make it through winter after winter like this, and there's a lot more that worries me than that about living there, but there is light again. I have never been so happy to see the end of winter. I had no idea, either, that I needed sun so much to be happy. I had other big reasons to be happy this winter, luckily, or I may have gone crazy.


  1. As for this winter and creativity, I know exactly how you feel, Lydia. I haven't written a word myself.

    I think it is such a brave thing to have bought that house! And in a few weeks' time, when summer sets in, you'll probably stop thinking "What was I thinking." I am sure it is a fantastic place, and I envy your chance to be that close to nature. Because it is a pastoral place, right? I met a man the other day at a book launch who runs this organic farm. He has some horses which he would like me to take care of for a weekend now and then. It made me think of you. I wish you could come with me when I go out there. :-)

  2. Hey Lydia! This is your cousin, Mary Meares. I'm enjoying reading your blog and would love to reconnect. I'm living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, teaching at the University of Alabama. Send me an email at mmmearesii@yahoo.com or look me up on Facebook!