I just returned from walking my dog, Duffy, and he’s a big wet ball of mud. It’s about 40 degrees and rainy outside, the worst possible weather for Minnesotans. Most of us relish the cold and snow and spend a lot of time outside enjoying it while also feeling slightly superior to those who live the easy life in warmer climates. Wimps.
When it’s really cold here, its also sunny, a very cheerful combination. We run out with show shoes or skis or simply gaze out on the sparkling snowbanks, hot cocoa in hand. By contrast today is capital D Dreary. No amount of cocoa will make me feel better unless it’s some of “Mr. Smith’s special hot chocolate” that my spouse used to take along on kids camp outs. Add to the drippy weather the fact that we’re so far north it gets dark really early in winter, so by about 4:30 it will be dark and dreary… sounds like Edgar Allen Poe.
On the upside, I’ve always felt that people who are too happy have nothing to write about. Would Poe have penned The Raven if he were feeling anything but morose? Could Jon Krakauer have written Into Thin Air if his Mt. Everest trek hadn’t been a disaster? One of my favorite writers, Tim Egan, concurs. In a recent New York Times column, “The Longest Nights,” he says the bleak winter is prime time for writers and other creative people. “At the calendar’s gloaming,” he says, “while the landscape is inert, and all is dark, sluggish, bleak and cold, writers and cooks and artists and tinkerers of all sorts are at their most productive.”
He lives in Seattle and his article ponders the relationship between Seattle’s uber rainy weather and the number of writers in that city. He says, “I’ve come to the conclusion that creativity needs a season of despair. Where would William Butler Yeats be if he nested in Tuscany? Could Charles Dickens ever have written a word from South Beach? And the sun of Hollywood did much to bleach the talents out of that troubled native of Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
So I welcome the bleak mid-winter. What else is there to do but towel off the dog, roll up my sleeves, and write… and perhaps sip a steaming cup of “special” hot cocoa?