Embracing the Storm

When the PLC picks out what subjects to blog on, we sit down together and have a massive brainstorming session, dreaming up topics for two or three months in a go. So, as time goes by, sometimes the week’s topic becomes a bit of a surprise. I’ve no idea what my original plan with the Five Senses was, but I’m really glad that it’s this week’s subject. Because I wrote a snowstorm yesterday, and I know I didn’t do all that well with it. And now I have an opportunity to fix my mistakes. Because there’s a place I can go where it’s always snowing.

Lemme explain. I live in Phoenix, which is a valley surrounded by mountains in the middle of the desert. The mountains like to block weather of any sort other than dry/hot. So it’s actually been a couple years since I’ve even seen snow, let alone weathered a storm. But I grew up in a suburb of Grand Rapids, MI, half an hour’s drive away from the lake.

I remember snow.

snowy fence from rkramer62’s Flickr (click the pic for the link back to her stream)

I remember inhaling clean, electric-tasting air so cold it cut my lungs; if there was wind it would rip tears from my eyes. I remember snotty noses, stinging red cheeks, dead toes and tingling thighs, wet, rumpled hair. I remember the nothing taste of snow, the empty sky of it on my tongue. And I remember all the different ways the snow would fall; from fat, wet flakes that rained down gently and thickly at once, to miserable dry powder that squeaked underfoot, to punishing ice and hail that coated the world in glittering rime. Black ice, we called it, and God help you if you tried to walk on it in dress shoes.

When the snow fell, it muffled the world. The mailbox became a white hump at the end of the driveway. Tree branches bent, sometimes broke, under the weight. Voices did not carry. Only the wind.

And most of all, I remember the fierce, triumphant, fearful feeling I would get when the snow descended in the blank fury of the white-out storm. Fierce and triumphant because I defied it, creeping blind at 3 miles an hour down the highway, gale winds rocking my Chevy back and forth; fearful because it still could kill me, especially in those dark, pre-cellphone ages.

Impossible to be unaware of one’s mortality when every breath you took made you ache inside. But, that was winter. You couldn’t cringe away from that sharp, biting air; you needed to embrace the pain, breathe it deep, and it would ease, if not disappear.

Those are just a few of my memories of snow. I’ve talked about the smell and taste, how it physically felt, and how it transformed the world it touched, from sight to sound. Now that I’m warm to the subject, I could write pages more about it. I’m going to go back to that scene I wrote yesterday and rip out all the clichés and write my memories instead. Because, as it turns out, my heart is full of snow.

Your heart is also full of memories, rich with sensory detail. Mine them, and make your fiction just as real.