I hate winter.
The older I get, the less tolerance I have for the cold and the snow and the wind. Twenty years ago I would wear shorts in December and January—a misguided, but earnest middle finger to Jack Frost. My memory might not be what it used to be (what is, anymore?), but I’m pretty sure that I took a cavalier approach to dress all the way into the single digits.
Now? As soon as the thermometer even looks at 32, I’m scanning Expedia for a flight out of Dodge. I just can’t do it anymore.
Except sometimes I have to. I force myself into the elements, pretending that it’s some low budget reality show about my survival and that there are dozens of people around the world wondering if I’ll make it through one more day in the harshness of this Wisconsin weather.
That, dear reader, was a touch overly dramatic.
But I do it. When I read the weather report and I see what I figure to be Mother Nature’s biggest haymaker of the year, I rush out to be in it. My thinking is usually something along the lines of well, there might come a day when I have to survive this, and it’s better to find out in a controlled situation how the body will respond. Then I bundle up in four layers and scarves and hats, and I throw myself out into the snow or the negative temperatures and imagine myself as some Admiral Byrd type, always ready for the adventure and the blustery waltz with death.
As some of you might know, I like the idea and the practice of adventure. I like going down unmarked trails in out of the way places because of what it does to the senses. When there is uncertainty of outcome, your senses work overtime. You see things in ways you don’t normally see, taking note of details along the way. You hear things that force the microprocessors in your brain to interpret what was that? A rushing river? A roaring lion? And you know that real consequences linger in the balance. You have to pay attention.
The cold in winter makes you pay attention.
Is this what frostbite feels like? How will I know if it’s hypothermia?
This being a blog about books and publishing and not one about middle aged dudes describing an adventure from a Rogaine commercial, I’ll get over to my point.
We’re all gonna die. It might be the cold. It might be the lion. But sooner or later, some unseen hand will tap us on the shoulder and then...
I know that some people write because they want to entertain. They want to produce fast rides through bright lights that always (even if we forget for a second), reserve an airbag for us, so that we know we’ll see an approximation of happily ever after. And that’s cool.
But it’s also not my thing.
I want the uncertainty of unmarked trails. I want to travel with overmatched protagonists who have to ask serious existential questions of themselves along the way. Is today’s cold, too cold? I want the confusion of life experience, confronted, and processed on the page. I truly believe this type of storytelling can not be learned in a classroom or authentically articulated from a life lived indoors.
And that is why we must bundle up as the mercury goes down.
We head out.