So let’s hope for a warm lion.

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More paragraphs than I planned on.

When we were kids, my friend Rebecca and I used to write stories together and read stories together and do basically everything together. Beck had those mildly gruesome little “Scary Stories to Read in the Dark” books, which I was always a little jealous of, because I probably wasn’t allowed to have them. We would take the instruction quite literally and look for somewhere dark, or semi-dark, to read them, like a tool shed in the back yard, which, with bright daylight peeking through the door, was just the right amount of scary for me. (If we had only known at the time that a teenage boy had murdered his entire family in her kitchen and living room just 40 years earlier! True story!)

I don’t know what prompted me, but I was thinking about this the other day, about when we used to read these stories to each other. Whenever it was Rebecca’s turn to read I would follow along with her over her shoulder and correct any time she read a word wrong or misinterpreted a particular mark of punctuation. Pretty much I must have been completely annoying! I could pick much more amusing stories from this friendship to write about, could in fact probably fill a book of memoirs-turned-blockbuster movie, but like I said, this ritualistic scary-story-reading is what most recently came to my mind.

And anyway, I just remembered what had sparked that memory. Last night Rachel and Molly and I went to see Holly play a show at IQs, which was great except for the smoke (Madison, my lungs and I love you for being smoke-free… Green Bay, get a clue!) One of Holly’s songs has a line about a toy drum, which made me think of that scary story with the toy drum and the gypsy girl and the woman with the glass eye… I remember reading that story with Rebecca and then a few years later hearing the very same story plagerized by some girl in the class above me, trying to pass it off as her own. Can you imagine? Trying to plagerize a classic like “Scary Stories to Read in the Dark”? Is nothing sacred anymore?

My family and I went to see the movie Marley & Me today. I was surprisingly engaged by it, and so, it seems, were all of the little kids in the theater who were sobbing. I cried a little too – partly because I could feel my mom’s tender heart breaking in the seat next to me. I don’t know if anyone loves animals more than she does.

Friday night I was at Holly’s birthday party and got to hang out with a 3 year old princess.  Really, she had two separate princess gowns along with her. She is my friend now. We played magic carpet ride and sinking ship and fort and when we got hungry we ate Holly (“Come here, you Lunch!”) Anyway, it was good for me. I wasn’t sure if I liked kids too much, but my new 3 year old friend proved that I do, or at least that I can.

On Christmas day my family went to stay at my dad’s cabin on the Wolf River. While we were there we watched Alone in the Wilderness, and I was reminded of how attractive it is for a man to know how to build things. I first realized this when I watched The Notebook with Laura and remarked that, “There is nothing sexier than a man who builds a house for the woman he loves!” So anyway, I’ve decided that my dream man will have the skills to build a cabin with his bare hands (and okay, a few tools). He will also play guitar and be kind to animals. There are at least 100 other qualifiers on this list, you can inquire to hear the rest of them.

While we were at the cabin the snow was everywhere and terribly beautiful. My dad has cross country skis and snow shoes hanging on the walls and for the first time in many years I actually felt some desire to go outside in the winterland and participate in some form of sport. Trust me, this is a new development. Being so new, I did not act on it, but I really think I might try some outdoor activities this winter. Considering how winter is just getting started! Don’t tell anyone, but as my family and I were driving through the state this week I said, with my eyes fixated on the gray and white landscape surrounding us, “I like winter.” Who am I? I tried explaining to my mom my theory that winter is the perfect climate for humans to exist (as the miserable beings that we are) and she thought it was kind of depressing. But kind of true?

We visited the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau and checked out the tromp l’oeil exhibit and the illustrated letters exhibit. The latter really inspired me to start writing letters again, and to do so creatively. That was the fun part of a long distance relationship, but of course letter-writing can happen between friends and family as well. I won’t make it an official goal, but maybe in 2009 I’ll do a bit more of this.

Hey, I just made two new friends. They are great. They are characters in my story. I mean, that is the only place that they exist. Is that weird? I brought my sketchbooks along with me this weekend thinking that I’d have a lot of time to get some pages filled. Well, I did have the time, but I am learning that I can’t write when there are people around, or even the option of being around people. So progress has been limited, but I still hope to have my designated chapter finished by the end of this month.

This has been a terrible summary of the past week… it is not chronological, it is not exhaustive, it is hardly descriptive. But considering that I just sat down as a matter of self-discipline and forced myself to start writing I’d say it’s not so bad after all.

2009 is going to be a big year…

Get hot!

Alright, let’s put our heads together and think of some good things about winter.  The first one is pretty obvious: we love how hot my bedroom gets in the winter.  The womb.  The incubator.  As I recently told my friend Emily, when I wake up in the morning in my 90+ degree hotbox, I feel like I’ve just been born.  Or like I’m just about to be.  Think of the philosophical and spiritual implications: every day is a new life!  And dang I just love it toasty.

Second, we get to wear warm clothes like sweaters and scarves and such.  Women, put away your razors, for the next six months no one cares how wooly your legs are.  Or if they care, they won’t see, anyway.  I might even go out and invest in some long underwear this year.  I am going to go overboard with the winter clothing.  I just am, okay? Blustry days… 

I suppose there are other nice things about winter, which don’t reflect my bias toward heat in some form.  There are those aesthetics like seeing your breath in cloud-form, ice covered branches, blah-di-blah and so forth.  It’s just not my season.  I’m trying to stay positive.  I made the most wonderful Elliott Smith mix yesterday, though, which doesn’t exactly help positivity.  But if there isn’t a more perfect time of year to listen to it, then I’ll be a munckey’s ankle.  Alright.  I write this same post every year at this time.  Let’s put our heads together, though, really.  If only for the body heat.

“We battled the wintry winds.  We put on our thickest skins.” Nedelle.

Y2K? Really?*

Well, clearly I’m going for a new look here, and clearly I’m not quite there (at least that part is clear to me).  Expect numerous changes in the next few days as I fumble around with graphic design in the same way that I paint… millions of do-overs (in painting I guess we call them layers).  I’m awful at graphic design.  All I can do is scribble, really.  But if I’m going to be a scribbler, I might as well get my scribbling down to a master-form!

Moving on, people are beginning to get panic in their voices when they talk about the coming winter.  They refer to the Farmer’s Almanac with the same mix of fear and disgust that they use discussing Bin Laden or Y2K.  Last year we broke the record snow fall with over 100 inches of snow.  This year we are supposed to get over 120 inches.  I read a nice column in the paper today in support of human hibernation.  I think I like that.   Let’s be bears.

*I couldn’t think of a better example.

Better left to lovers.

Today I cut up an onion, just to see if I could cry, to see if I had any emotion left in this dried up, crippled heart.

Boo hoo, haha. That’s Xanga style! Take that you emo kids.

Actually, I DID cut up on onion today, but it was really only because I was making red potato salad, which went rather deliciously with my black bean burger topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado. Holy yum! I am beginning to understand this species’ fascination with food. Once my stomach settles a bit (I had quite a large dinner) I am going to make myself a mango-pineapple smoothie and sit under my daylight lamps in my studio and give painting another try, because truth be told, I couldn’t ever give it up. (And thank you to anyone who wrote me an encouraging comment yesterday, although some of you technically did break the rules laid out in the title. I appreciate it anyway!)

We are almost halfway through March now. Halfway through the worst, most depressing month of all, at least if you live in Wisconsin (no offense to all March birthdays!). March is a tease, normally, but this year it’s been just plain prudish. It’s not giving us even a glimpse of spring. Even today, when it was supposed to be in the mid-40s for the first time in too long, it felt cold, although it must have been above freezing because along with the potholes I drove through lots of puddles on the way home from work. Day light savings has hit extra hard this month; just as we were getting used to the lighter mornings we are plunged back into something like January, and although I hear birds when I wake up they seem to be saying, “Hey, what the heck! Who woke us up?” instead of “Tra la la, spring is near, spring is here!” Well, all of this sounds like one big paragraph of complaining, but I assure you it’s not. Because, remember, I was rather into winter this year. I opined about the beauty in desolation and despair, and the recurring thought in my mind through the onslaught of snow and ice and wind chill advisories (and repeat) was how silly it all is, this arctic lifestyle we lead. No, I wouldn’t want you to think I am complaining, but I freely admit that I am looking forward to spring. Especially after a winter like we’ve had, as I imagine every ray of sunshine will feel that much warmer, every sugary-scented blossom will smell that much sweeter. I even read in the paper today that Madison is going to start a Pothole Patrol, which makes me happy. The potholes are dangerously close to becoming natural wonders: “Junior, smile for the camera, now, hey! Don’t get too close to the edge!!!”

Anyway, today’s title doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a phrase that popped into my head while I was chopping up my onion (and was, in fact, a bit weepy). I thought it would make a good title for a blog post, but didn’t want to wait around for a pertinent subject matter. It could also be an appropriate title for a Harlequin Romance, if you’re interested in buying the rights. Come to think of it, it could also be the name of a good emo band. (Xanga!)

The snow is always whiter.

Hello year 2008.

I am changing. Really! It used to be that I hated Wisconsin and hated the winter, and maybe it’s way too early in the season to make a statement like the one I’m about to, but I think it’s maybe becoming the opposite. Here is the thing: for a month now it’s been freezing cold and wet and slippery and gray and dark and all those depressing adjectives, but it’s done very little to make me depressed, and in fact it has me a little bit excited about the coming three or four months of this weather. Honestly, what is becoming of me?

In the spring of 2006 I moved back to Wisconsin after living for nine months (including one winter) in California. I thought, “Surely when this next winter hits I will experience heightened depression, having tasted the alternative. Surely I will regret my choice to return and will take the first presented opportunity to get the heck back out of Wisconsin.” I was bracing myself for a reaction like that. And granted, last year’s winter didn’t start until after the New Year (we’ll have an entire extra month this year!) but those dreaded feelings of gloom never came. Why not?

Of course there were distractions to help keep my mind off of the weather. I was starting my new temp job at the bank, I was applying for grad school, I was preparing for my Northern Waters art show, I was falling in love, those kinds of things. I’m positive there were days when I muttered about the cold and vowed to return to a warmer climate, but I don’t think it was ever very urgent, or very sincere. Through all of last winter you could say I tolerated the season but I don’t think you could say I appreciated it yet. You certainly couldn’t say that I liked it.

No, it seems those emotions would come this year. Earlier I wrote a post saying I found winter to be hilarious, but also noble and endearing. It brought us together as a Northern people. We are stronger for facing these winters. We are braver, kinder, and generally more well-balanced. Some would say we are crazy, for remaining in a climate so unkind to the human race with our naked skin and reckless driving, but the people who say that are neglecting to notice some of the things which I have been noticing–for the first time even –this winter.

If we take the unpleasant decrease in temperature and the frustrating conditions of the roads and put that aside for a moment, what you have left is one of the most fascinating aesthetics of all the seasons. The lush color of spring, summer and fall are obvious choices, and I will always love those seasons more than winter, I think. But winter–look at it! Who doesn’t enjoy waking up and finding that the world outside has been covered with a fresh blanket of pure white snow, and everything–the power lines and the tree limbs and the housetops and neighbors’ cars–is all part of the scenery? Of course we like that, it’s a post card, it’s a snow globe. And when the sun shines down on this landscape it is dazzling. But that’s not the winter I’m talking about. I’m talking about the winter that is gray and sloppy, melting and freezing and melting again. The streets are dirty and the sun hasn’t been present for days, and the trees are bare and twisted and ugly. There is no Christmas cheer and no one is walking around with a skip in their step. We are all depressed.

Except we shouldn’t be! Because there is something gorgeous about this miserable landscape. The world has been, temporarily, drained of color and we exist in the gray scale. Aesthetically it is remarkable–it is challenging and the values are subtle. We can’t rely on color to tell us anything. The world is a line drawing. Metaphorically it is just as challenging. We are grimy humans and we can, for a time, dwell in a world more suited to our dismal thoughts and continual failures. Life can be so ugly–here it is! We have this season to truly wallow, if we want to, or if we’re not the wallowing type we can be that beacon of hope, that smile which signals that spring will surely come. We will thaw and the ice around our hearts will melt. I’ve never been so sure of spring as I have been this winter. “I don’t mind the weather, I’ve got scarves and caps and sweaters.”

People living in warmer climates have troubles too. If you move there, you will not leave them behind. I’m glad that I learned this.

Greener Grass (From the August EP, August 2006)

Winterland.

We are getting so much snow! Winter used to make me very angry. Now I just think it is hilarious. Seriously. What is this weather about? It’s just silly! I am filled with love for the people of Wisconsin. We stick together. We help each other out. We share this somewhat traumatic experience for four or five months of every year, and if you think that doesn’t create a bond, you’re wrong. We are tough as nails. We persevere. And from the heat of our homes and our offices, this snow looks pretty dang gorgeous.

How appropriate that my first tag is “weather”.  I’m so Midwestern!

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