Winter Meadows

It’s a cold snowy day as I write this. For months my writing and work on the Civil War book project seems to have been stuck in a drift. But that’s okay. The ”force that through the green fuse drives the flower” has been flowing for me elsewhere in the past four months.” What has been flowing for me is time with family. Is there anything more important?

In August/September, Dave and I traveled to Minnesota for a Borchard family reunion. In October we took a little time out to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in Maine. Since then I’ve been devoting most of my time and energy to helping my daughter and her family during her recovery from hernia repair. She has been prohibited from lifting anything more than eight pounds for two months from the date of her surgery. That includes five-year-old Ethan, three-year-old Delaney, and Camden, the 18-month-old, that cute “little” snug-a-lug who weighs in at a “mere” 36 pounds!

So, thanks to the “weights” I’ve been lifting and yoga, my upper body strength has increased significantly. But I haven’t had much time, energy, or inclination for writing. In fact, I had actually started skidding into a writing slump before my daughter’s surgery, after I printed out and started reading a rough draft of the historical novel I had been working on. The deep freeze seemed the perfect resting place for it.

Yet, if the past four months have brought anything home to me, it’s not only the importance of family, but the joy of being blessed with kids, grandkids, relatives, and a husband I dearly love. And that, I realize, is what the letters and stories of my ancestors are really about.

Even so, I have found it hard to plow through the frozen meadows in my writing, and so I have been hoping for a few small breaks or signs that a thawing is on the way. Three things have happened in the past week that, for me, just may indicate that the “green fuse” is rising.

The first is a funny little coincidence that most people would probably find insignificant. When Dave and I went to vote on Saturday, December 5th, the two people who had signed in just before us had the last name of “Byers.” Since that is one of the family names associated with the letters, I wondered: was something nudging me to get back to them?

On Sunday, December 6th, I completed a little project I had been asked to do by my grandson Ethan for his kindergarten class at Parr’s Ridge Elementary School in Mt. Airy, Maryland. What were the Christmas traditions in Shepherdstown, his class wanted to know. In doing a bit of research for this project, I discovered that Shepherdstown is known as a “storybook” town, so I decided to use the “storybook” approach for the project–with hopes that it would inspire the kindergarteners, now learning to read, to do their own storybooks. I had a lot of fun doing it, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed writing and doing artistic things.

On Monday, December 7th, Dave and I were shopping in our local bookstore, Four Seasons, when the January 2010 issue of “The Writer Magazine” caught my eye. One of the stories featured on the cover was “Simple Strategies to Get Out of A Creative Rut.” I bought it.

Tuesday night, before going to sleep, I opened the magazine to that article. Was I ever surprised and delighted to find that it was an archival article by Peggy Simson Curry, Wyoming’s first poet laureate. Peggy died in 1987, but I was fortunate to be in the last creative writing course she taught at Casper College and, later, in a small writing group she started. If I had to pick one person who inspired and helped me in my writing career, it would be Peggy, not just because of her accomplishments, but because of who she was. Whomever she was with, whatever she was doing–she did with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength.

In writing about her own winter as a writer, she recalls the time she saw some men with pitchforks digging hay out of a snow-covered meadow. “Deep in those haystacks, covered with snow,” she writes, “was the green and fragrant heart of summer. No matter how cold the day, a man could dig down and find the green. He could smell again the timothy and the clover.”

Is it just coincidence that that article by that particular person landed in my hands at this time? I tend to think not, but regardless of the significance of such a “coincidence,” for me it has a clear meaning. As Peggy writes, “winter meadows [are] an inevitable part of every life, but in such meadows there [are] always the humps of snow-drifted green, the gathered and fragrant harvest of living.”

Thanks, Peggy.

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