Fighting The Doldrums Of Winter

One of my daughters in -43° Celsius. Her hair is very long dark brown, but all you can see of it is frozen white sprizzles poking out the sides to match the frost on her eyelashes.

(Reposted, as yesterday’s version somehow had the commenting section disabled.)

A blogging brother in Christ asked this question in a recent post (here): “How do you fight the doldrums of winter?”

He wrote of some action steps he takes to keep moving forward, albeit in a slower than ideal manner when winter’s cold affects even the spirit.

I shared an action step of my own, which was as follows:

Sometimes, no matter what I do, I still feel them.

But, in general, a positive difference began about ten years ago when one of my daughters and I were discussing how annoyed we were at ourselves for all the whining we did concerning winter, and how it didn’t help.

She and I decided not to complain about winter anymore.

At first, it was silly. With forced cheerfulness we said things like, “Wow, I love it when it gets down to minus thirty!” And “Snow up to my knees is awesome!” Or “Isn’t it neat when the snow plow doesn’t come down our road till we’re stuck for a week?”

We made each other laugh with our silly remarks, and we’d correct ourselves and each other when we slipped up and griped.

But over the years, the attitude increasingly became real.

Last week, that daughter sent me a photo of herself standing at a bus stop in northern BC, a few hours north of me, waiting to catch a ride to university. It was -43 Celsius and she was smiling with white frost on her eyelashes. She looked like a proverbial ice princess.

We talked later, with laughter, about how it’s become almost a competition among us northern folk to say what coldness we’ve endured. We might not outright prefer it over a nice warm day, but there’s a hint of bragging when we can say we lived through something not normally considered pleasant.

Plus the cold makes for some good storytelling later around a fire.

Then there was the situation at my place last week. In the high minus thirties Celsius, I was burning more wood than usual, trying to keep the house warm inside. Our chimney pipe from the middle floor and up through the steep roof over the third floor is really long, our wood is a bit wet (all the wood we got last rainy spring, summer, and fall was wet, and we haven’t yet cut enough to let it season a full year before needing to use it), and there must have been a blockage of creosote. Well, maybe that should be another blog entry, as this has already gotten long. You can read it here:“Fire And Water Emergencies”.

Day 4 of Just Write – Writing Advice From A Friend

Yesterday’s sunrise – nothing to do with my blog entry

“Tell them something they need someone to say for them.”

Today’s entry in my Just Write Challenge is on advice given to me by a longtime friend and writing mentor, via a messaging conversation. Perhaps some can relate to my frustration, and some can gain from his response:

ME: Can you believe I am STILL not done my Alaska book? It hovers over me constantly, like a fog — sometimes thicker, sometimes barely perceptible, but always there.

I keep thinking, “I should message [my friend] and tell him about my frustration in this regard.”

I don’t know why. Maybe because I know that you are interested in the book.

The more well-written books I read, the more I become aware of my shortcomings as a writer. It is a daunting task, to compile all the stories in an interesting-to-read manner. They are all interesting to me, but I want them to be interesting to the reader, too, lest they put the book down unfinished, as I do with so many books that bore me.
Over the past week or so, I’ve got it in my mind to start (again!) another book, that being the story of how I met [the ex], the process I went through with him as he tore me down, and how I finally escaped.
I’ve been urged to write that book many times by many people, but the thing is, I feel like it’s only interesting to those who know me. And I’ve seen so many biography type books on people who’ve been through abuse, to the point that I don’t like reading them at all.
Buuuut, maybe I will write it anyway.
And the thing that’s been going through my mind about it is that maybe I should write it from a third-person point of view, rather than me me me. That’s another thing with which I struggle in my books: it’s only ME. I’m not a famous person. I feel uncomfortable focusing on me. Maybe if I do it in third-person, I won’t feel quite that way

FRIEND: I use third person, for exactly that reason. As I hinted before, I think Dostoevsky is doing that much of the time — telling his own story.

I’ve been reading my second Fyodor Dostoevsky novel. His narrative is the best I have encountered, and I marvel that I have that opinion merely through a translation.

How much better in the original Russian?

So, it must be the story he has to tell.

In both novels, he tells of some of the same characters: A horrible man who cruelly whips and beats a horse to death. A poor college student who gets a theological paper published and becomes greatly elevated in social rank as a result. A busybody housewife of the unearned upper class.

I have no doubt that these are real people and events from his own life — powerful, iconic (for him) stories and characters. Those icons give us glimpses into his, the author’s, heart, mind, and soul.

Dostoevsky has a huge heart, a supple mind, and a beautiful soul.

I got bored in the first few chapters of the second novel, but I pressed on because I cared about what he wanted to share about hearts, minds, and souls — especially his own.

You, too, see humanity in those terms. You have beauty inside and out. You, too, have a faith that overcomes all.

Let the reader care about you, and they’ll read. Tell them something they need someone to say for them. Tell them, also, what they need to know, but probably do not realize.

They’ll keep turning pages.

ME: Thank you. I think I shall print out what you just wrote about Dostoevsky and keep it on top of my desk to refer to for encouragement. I have another such printout from [another friend]. My desk is becoming cluttered. I need to fix that.

FRIEND: In that way God has of making a point, [a mutual friend] just sent me a little story. She sent it, she wrote, because I had encouraged her to write stories that give the reader glimpses into her.

So she did, writing to her sister, and copied it to me, separately.

It was a perfect example.

Yes, it is more interesting to me, because I love you two, but any reader is going to love you two. Let them.

I am grateful for friends. I hope someday I actually finish both of those books. They might be of interest and of help to someone.

Encouraging Young Writers

Someone else wrote this:

 

“When I was a child my fondness for writing was often met with smiles and praise, but rarely with helpful or genuine encouragement. In fact, when I announced that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, most people tried to talk me out of it. There’s no money in it, they would say. You can do it as a hobby, but you need a proper job. Luckily for me, their words never discouraged me. … (Continue reading)

Well Done!

I love getting the little notification that announces to me and only me how many days in a row I’ve posted on WordPress. Do you know what I mean?

Not that I do things for the sole purpose of receiving any kind of acknowledgement, but it does feel good to get a little pat on the back, even if via a pre-programmed note. There was a human behind the original creation of that note, and I appreciate that they thought of it.

I believe it is going to feel extra wonderful to hear sweet words from my Lord Jesus when I see Him face to face, like He paints in a parable where He says the famous lines: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:23)

Look up the whole passage in the Bible, in Matthew 25:14-30, for the full details. Here’s a link to help you get there, and you can find it in whichever version you like to read: Matthew 25:14-30

By the way, I like my steak well done, too, but that’s another topic.

Well done!

Barbecue is a food group

Saturday nothings…

spring melt2

Just a quick note because I want to keep seeing the little thing that tells me how many days of a streak I’m on with posting blog entries on WordPress.

The photo above is from the nearby town of 100 Mile House, BC. Snow has finally melted away, the ice is turning back to liquid H2O, and the sun is shining.

I had a great day today, but right now there’s no time to write about it. Maybe I’ll get a chance to talk another time about the meeting I had with a local author, and all the encouragement I gathered as a result, but for now I’m off to buy a few beef weiners and maybe some s’mores ingredients for a bonfire is in the works this evening.

Oh, and if you want to leave a comment, I hope you can find the procedure to do so. I’ve not had time to fix things up on my blog to make the comment section easier, or to include an auto-signature line that apologizes for the necessity of having to sign up with a free WordPress account before you can comment. But if you do get it figured out, let me know you’re alive and tell me a bit about your day. Not many people read my blog anyway, so you don’t have to worry about ending up being spammed by replies.

PS: Here it is – the thing that tells me I’m on a 7-day streak.
Saturday nothings indeed! 🙂

7 day streak

Education By Conversation

The following is from a plaque dedicated to the grandfather of my friend Martha. I never met her grandfather, Sid Rutherford, of Orono, Ontario, Canada, but reading about him, he sounds like someone I’d love to have known. Maybe others can relate.

Sidney Basil Rutherford
1916-1992

Born November 5, 1916 and possessed of an insatiable curiosity, Sid Rutherford was a passionate educator. His teaching career spanned 34 years, beginning in a one-room schoolhouse in Crooked Creek and finishing as Vice Principal of Clarke High School. A strong advocate that most education occurred outside of the classroom, he encouraged everyone to pursue lifelong learning as they followed their dreams, once writing that “the best education in the world is when two people sit on the log facing one another and converse alone.”

In pursuit of his own curious mind, Sid could often be found outdoors in the fields and on forest trails in this area hiking, cross country skiing, observing. He felt a strong civic duty and served on many boards, committees, and advocacy groups to protect Orono as a village within its unique landscape for future generations. It was important to him to stand up, be a voice, and make a difference.

After his death on Feb 15, 1992, the community, along with his family, created this Woods Walk to honour his memory. Emblematic of his love of nature, this trail embodies his wish that curious minds will explore the wondrous trails in and around his beloved Orono.

Commenting on the village slogan, “Orono, The Place With a Difference”, Sidney B. Rutherford wrote, “The citizens of Orono over the years have been feisty; sometimes almost contrary; but through it all, Orono has maintained its character and that makes the difference.”

Encouragement for Writing

The following is a comment written to me by my friend Chad in response to one of my blog posts (this one: Giving Up On Writing) . I found it so encouraging that I decided to put it in a document, highlighting a few points in Amazinga font, with the rest in Adobe Garamond Pro font, and to print it out and put it on my desk, so I can refer to it until it becomes ingrained. I also wanted to share it with others who might happen to find my blog. May it bless you as it has me.

“I felt like encouraging you to write at your leisure, and don’t let anybody dictate rules about that – not even you.

I’d suggest sitting down to write as often as you get the time, but notice that all I said was sit down to write I didn’t say actually write necessarily, nor create an obligation to write and then feel lousy if nothing happens.

I’ve received that same advice (with more detail) and it’s the closest thing I’ve done to being something enjoyable and productive. Notice again, that I didn’t say it was enjoyable and productive – just the closest thing to it that I’ve tried.

It’s enjoyable more often than not, though.

It’s also enjoyable more often than it’s productive, and that’s an important piece to ponder, should you desire to do so.

One hint I can give you is that when I sit down at my desk, I’m not creating a law to follow; about accomplishment of any kind. I’ve learned that that never is a positive experience and rarely if ever produces anything, positive or not.

But what I do, instead, is first, enjoy a tiny little pocket of orderor quiet, as it’s commonly known. It usually takes a while for my brain to reach a state that I can call quiet. But when it does I just give myself license to enjoy it.

With God.

Praying and writing are not things I separate very often.

Then I just decide that I’ll write or I won’t.

I ask God, but I don’t strain.

I just enjoy a moment with Him, and I let it go where it goes, and if I happen upon some part of that time that maybe could be written down, then I start.

Without expectations.

That’s the important part.

Peace is vital to the process, therefore laws and expectations are antithetical to it.

Since you do have a specific project in mind, maybe you can still just write whatever comes to you, and stay loose, and maybe you wander into your project, or maybe what you write spontaneously turns out to form an unexpected element of the main project? Or maybe it jars a memory loose that’s relevant to it, or maybe it inspires something unexpected… who knows? Not us, so why form expectations? It ruins the enjoyment, and it stifles creativity. It may never have anything to do with the book you’ve planned, but it may stand on its own as something you and others value for decades to come, and yet more, it may form the basis of a main project that you hadn’t previously even considered. But there’s only one way to find out what it’s going to be….

Prayer for me is a great way to enter the writing process, and writing is a great way to enjoy God. So I combine them, and I trust Him to lead the proceedings. And when I approach it that way, it’s much more peaceful and much more enjoyable, and more often fruitful – and in more than just one way. And if something is not enjoyable, and there’s no gun to your head, it’s not worth doing in large part because the fruit (product) won’t be as good as it will be if it were an immersive, transporting experience for you, to create it.

Well, that’s my opinion, anyway.

Maybe you’re already doing this but lack the time to engage in such pronounced dissociation, or maybe you’re a different enough personality type that it’s not your thing (although I highly doubt that, from knowing you to whatever extent I do!).

Maybe, however, there’s some use you can make of something or other I’ve said – that’s what I hope, anyway – but either way, I pray you find time, inspiration, and most of all, enjoyment, in the desire and effort to produce, and in the process itself.

Can’t go wrong if ya pray for someone, no matter the quality of your advice! ☺

PS I apologize for the disjointedness and rambling, but I didn’t prepare and I didn’t edit. I rarely do in contexts like this – though folks may occasionally wish I had done! ?”

Biggest takeaway for me is this:
“Peace is vital to the process“.

Amen, so much amen, and aaaaaaaaamen! Yo!