Waiting for a spring thaw
The Montana dispatch:
For the past six weeks I've been in a lull.
I'm calling it a mid-winter lull. Because I don't know how else to identify this consistent pressing of a snooze button, and rolling over, curling back up and returning to a dream world as the snow falls outside my window.
I haven't wanted to do anything that I had made plans to do when I first came from California to Montana in early December, with the airport glass doors of the terminal opening to a blizzard and a fahrenheit temperature of 17 below.
I don't want to explore.
I don't want to improve myself.
I definitely don't want to write.
I wake up at 3am upset by embarrassingly dumb things (there was this great cartoon I used to have on my fridge - ''Insomniac's Tic Tac Toe'' - with options like ''diseases I might have'' and ''ways that I have been wronged'' that come to mind here)
Guilt is another thing that wakes me up at 3am.
And I feel it acutely because this winter is a gift of time.
There are no distractions. All my needs are met. I don't have to pay for heating or snow tyres right now. I go to work as the daylight fades and walk home under stars. This means I have entire mornings and afternoons to finally work on all those writing projects that have been clogging up my laptop.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in my way to prevent me from doing everything I said I just needed a little time and space to do, when I left Southland in June.
And look. All around me. Time and space.
So what's the problem, I ask myself, as I stare at the white screen of my laptop with nine words I've been meditating on for about 40 minutes. Then I look at the trees outside. Then back at the screen and decide to watch movie trailers.
This isn't how it was supposed to be.
I was supposed to live this wild writer's life this winter.
I'd burst out of bed at 6am and make a big pot of coffee. I'd read a couple of Steinbeck stories then turn on my laptop and just sink down into a whole made-up world and feverishly create the next steps, the next rocks to leap to in a raging river, the doors that would swing open in a dark corridor, etc.
I'd snap out of it by mid-morning, with at least a thousand earth-shattering words written.
I'd make porridge with steel cut oats and huckleberries and slivered almonds and eat it on the porch, bundled up, my breath before me, steam rising up from the bowl in my hands.
Then I'd grab my camera, backpack and skis and set off to document the wilderness all around the room I wake up in each morning (I don't think I've ever woken up in a place where I've been so very aware of what is 'out there' when I open my eyes - all the beauty, and then all the things that could kill me beyond the trees outside my window).
And then after hours skiing I'd return to make some kind of healthy stew in a crock pot with bread I would have kneaded by hand. The whole kitchen would smell of baking bread.
I'd sit at the kitchen table, eat and edit what I had worked on that morning. I'd probably have Nick Drake or Arcade Fire playing as I did effortless re-writes that would only make the brilliant paragraphs I had written that morning more brilliant.
Then I'd close my laptop, sit back with a mug of something with no caffeine whatsoever, and take a moment to congratulate myself for being so fabulous with time management and goal achievement before heading to work.
This is not even close to the reality of how my days are looking right now.
My deepest hours of sleep are probably between 8 and 10 am.
I'll lay in bed feeling anxious about wasting a full morning, then I'll go lay on the couch with my blankets and pillow and feel anxious about wasting a full morning some more.
Then I'll grab one of the best sellers from the living room bookshelf and read until I can actually count the number of brain cells I've killed by following the life of a woman named Jillian who, unhappy with her life in suburbia, has a particularly deep massage one day that releases her chi, and she ends up being magically transported into an alternate life with a very exciting ex-boyfriend in a loft apartment in the city and a career as an ad executive.
I'll think about making a healthy pot of porridge, but then I think about how much better leftover pizza would taste while feeling so superior to Jillian and her bad decisions.
By the time I do head out with skis and camera it is well into the afternoon, and kind of late to go anywhere really adventurous.
So I slide around, faltering, because I am not that skilled with Nordic skiing and it is actually a lot of work getting up these hills when it is icy.
Then I come back and look at how much I have written and I feel about the same way.
Pretty much just slowing to glacial pace, and finally just stuck completely. Frozen in mid-winter.
I stare hard at the nine words on my laptop screen.
Then I get up, pour another cup of coffee, stare out the window and wait for a sign, any sign of spring thaw.
Image top: Frozen Spanish Peaks.