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Awoke this morning to find an email from a poet. It read:
“Amanda dear, I wish I had a camera to take a picture of your cottage right now, because your door is half-buried in a snow drift…I don’t know if you could open it. If you want to get out anytime soon, holler and I’ll come over and dig you out!”
I wrote back to thank her for the warning (my windows had been frosted over with blowing snow, so I had no idea how much had accumulated) and to tell her that she needn’t worry about digging—I had no intentions of coming out.
Then I started work on my novel, and within a sentence or two, it seemed suddenly imperative that I get out. It was important that I find my camera and sneak out the back door (less drifted) so that I could photograph the front, as the poet suggested. So I pulled on my clam boots and forged through thigh-high drifts to take the photo. Then I forged back, only to find that the back door of my cottage has an automatic lock.
Gloveless, in my pajamas and clam boots, I marched to the aforementioned poet’s door and borrowed a pair of gloves. Thus equipped, I announced with some glee that we could “dig like dogs!” and began frantically flinging snow out from between my legs. I was making some headway, and in fact, breaking a bit of a sweat, when I noticed that the poet had not embraced the idea of digging with her hands, and was instead standing behind me with a shovel, trying politely to get my attention.
Of course, the shovel was more efficient, and I finally unburied my front door, only to remember that it was locked too.
Anyway, it’s not much of a story: I found a spare key, and eventually regained access to my warm little cottage, where I listened to the howling of either the wind or an actual hound dog (there’s one across the fence so it’s a legitimate confusion). Then, the snowy weather put me (and Andrea) in mind of the wonderful Ron Hansen story “Wickedness,” one of the coldest, snowiest stories ever, about the sudden, fierce blizzard of 1888:
“Cows tails stuck out sideways when the wind caught them. Sparrows and crows whumped hard against the windowpanes, their eyes seeking out an escape, their wings fanned out and flattened as though pinned up in an ornithologist’s display. Cats died, dogs died, pigeons died. Entire farms of cattle and pigs and geese and chickens were wiped out in a single night. Horizontal snow that was hard and dry as salt dashed and seethed over everything, sloped up like rooftops, tricked its way across creek beds and ditches, milkily purled down city streets, stole shanties and coops and pens from a bleak landscape that was even then called the Great American Desert. Everything about the blizzard seemed to have personality and hateful intention. Especially the cold. At 6 A. M., the temperature at Valentine, Nebraska was 30 degrees above zero. Half a day later the temperature was 14 below, a drop of 44 degrees and the difference between having toes and not, between staying alive overnight and not, between ordinary concerns and one overriding idea.”
So now I think I’ll make some hot chocolate, be grateful for my toes, and revel in Hansen’s inventive use of verbs. Whumping, purling, seething! It’s enough to get a girl back in the writing spirit.