The Winter Doldrums

I’m fighting the winter doldrums.

The polar vortex with its -40 F (-40 C) wind chill has passed, and the warmer temperatures have melted some of the snow, but we’re now shrouded in grey skies and thick fog. There is nothing romantic in February fog and muddied snow.

My life looks like the terrain outside — isolated and isolating, with no shiny stars left over from Christmas to focus on.¬† No bad news, but no good news either. Nothing other than the occasional rejection on the query front. No new life in my basement grow room, although the good news is that I will be starting some seeds in a couple weeks — tomatoes and peppers and eggplant; white flowers for the moon garden (aka the non-edible portion of my garden).

It’s hard to feel optimistic right now. It’s hard to believe that beneath the snow and ice of my life, plants slumber waiting for their time to reach for the sky.

The Wind Chill

The temperature at this moment is -17 F (-22 C) with windchills of -32 F (-35.5 C). At this temperature, any exposed skin will develop frostbite in ten minutes. The US Postal Service suspends deliveries to save its workers from literally freezing to death and schools shut down. Outdoors could kill me today with very little effort, if I were to venture out and stay there.

I’m not sure why I got out of bed this morning. It’s hard even thinking about moving, even in a blessedly warm house, with temperatures outside like that. It’s bitterly cold outside, and my body wants to eat high-carb food, gain twenty pounds of fat, and hibernate for the winter.

I will do nothing of the sort. I have coffee to drink, blankets to swath myself in, books to edit. I have gardens to plan. I defy the chill, even though it frightens me with its potency outside. 

I’m Not Feeling It

My writing life lately has been meh.

Current projects: finish re-re-re edit of Apocalypse (halfway done) so it can be dev edited. Add a couple thousand words to the dev edited Voyageurs so I can send it out for queries. Wait to see if any agents nibble on Prodigies (not good so far with rejections in the double digits). Flesh out idea for possible new novel, but I’m not feeling it.

That’s pretty much the problem today — I’m not feeling it. Whatever it is.

I have a Tarot deck, but it reads in terms of themes and affirmations rather than predictions. I don’t trust predictions, because it’s easy to insert wishful thinking and get disappointed. I read by shuffling the cards repeatedly and reading what falls out of the deck. My cards today: Hanged man (It’s not time yet; surrender your expectations) and Page of Earth (undeniable evidence that hard work will pay off). Which seems … contradictory.


I suppose it could be the winter. It’s hard to get inspired when everything outside appears the same uniform shade of grey, and going outside means braving the cold (Wednesday’s windchills are predicted to be -40F/-40C) The earth is hibernating and so, it seems, is my brain.

So I’m looking for inspiration because I’m not feeling it. Anything you can send me for inspiration (honestly, I mean it — you can comment on posts!) would be appreciated.

Dreaming of Green Again

I’m starting to plan my summer garden. As anyone who gardens knows, this consists of getting glossy catalogs with beautiful and fascinating plants, ordering the seeds. planting them, and becoming disappointed that one’s results are not the same as in the catalogs. In my opinion, all catalogs should have “Your Results May Vary” in fine print next to the pictures.

I wish I had a warm greenhouse to spend the winter in. Instead, I have a magnificent grow room in the basement with shelves and fluorescent lights and heat pads. Not quite as nice as a greenhouse, but it’s mine. I sometimes worry that I’m going to have my tomato plants confiscated by DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency, for my foreign friends). I’ve already been visited by an agent of the USDA (US Department of Agriculture, for all my foreign friends), who confiscated some seeds I could have sworn were legal in the US.

I’m just beginning seed-starting season. It’s too early to start most seeds, but I have a few seeds with — well, advanced skill requirements, such as “Violets: warm stratify for 60-120 days, then cold stratify for two weeks, then plant.” I hope 60 days is enough warm stratifying, because I don’t want to have to wait till September to plant them. So the cold stratifying seeds (yucca, semi-wild rose) are in the refrigerator in dampened peat moss, the warm stratifying seeds are in the grow room, and I’m waiting a couple more weeks to plant my first seeds.

If past years are an indicator, I will have everything from abject failure to stunning success to “why the heck did I do that?” An example of the latter was the perilla that I planted in a 72-cell mini-trainer (which I will not use again, even though I’ve used them for years) –they got nine inches tall in a root ball that grew out the bottom of the one-tablespoon sized root pot, and all the roots tangled. So I had One big 72-stemmed perilla that lacked leaves on the bottom six inches of the stems and that I coiuldn’t get out of the pots. Note to self: You don’t need that much perilla. Also note to self: bigger start pots and transplanting sooner.

I’ll tell you more about the secret of my garden later.

Dreaming of a Garden

I dream of violets breaking through the earth,
presenting themselves with shy giggles,
and the ferns unfurling their fronds in stately parade,
Even the scruffy dandelions will come,
elbowing each other for room,
boldly declaring their rights under the sun.

For now, I must be satisfied with dreams
of introducing new lives in the garden —
rhubarb and greens and humble turnips all
slumbering in shells in cool, dry packages.

Winter’s Nap

I would just as soon sleep all winter.

I would have made a fine early agrarian — farm manically all summer, hibernate all winter. In a cave wouldn’t be bad as long as it was warm and comfortable — ok, fine, I’d have a hay mattress on the floor, infested by fleas and lice. I guess I’ll stop my romanticizing here.

It’s hard for me to get out of bed in the winter. My husband’s laughing at this because I’m always up and out of bed before he is, at 5:00 AM every morning. Honestly, though, it’s HARD to get out of bed. I keep hoping to be snowed out of work even though they shoveled all the snow from Sunday’s blizzard.

The world is no longer that simple as to follow the rhythms of the year. Academia, my home, follows a rhythm, which is why I love it. But winter is still worktime, and I fight the need to be cozy every day to go to work.

Christmas break will be here in two and a half weeks; I think I’ll make it till then.