90 Days…And A Bit More

The last snow here in Yellowstone came on June 22nd, the summer solstice.

CB47650C-F077-48B3-8517-47E9EC463940Summer has not yet officially ended, but the first snow has come already…on September 21st.  That’s right, two days before the official end of summer.  Not even ninety days, and the snows are here again.

Yep, that’s about right for this place: three months of summer, and nine of winter.

It’s a good thing I like the cold.  Hell, it’s even better that I like hiking in the cold!  The animals are out this time of year, you see, eating like mad to get ready for winter.  The only other period that comes even close to this is the early spring, when they are again eating like mad to recover from the winter.

Two days ago I was out on a favorite trail of mine, early in the morning.  Within the first mile I saw a wolf pack stalking an elk herd, and a grizzly circling a dying bison.  Throw in the eagle I saw as well and I hit the freaking jackpot within 20 minutes of setting out!

“But why are you going up there again?!” I was asked six months ago.

Gee, I wonder…

Err…that’s why I’m staying, too.

Yep, that’s right, I gave in and signed up to stay through the winter.  Through temperatures of 20-30 degrees below zero (that’s in Fahrenheit, in Celsius it translates to … err … umm … freaking COLD).  Through 20+ feet of snow on the ground.  Through no possible road travel.  Through no one around but a few fellow lunatics…

I’m gonna love it.  But…


But what about the writing?


I’m sanguine.


Hey, my productivity can’t get any lower than the last six months…

…can it?

The good news, of course, is that I’ll be up here — still mostly out of contact and 8A5B492A-F26A-4432-B7FF-9A484642E648away from it all — as the current political climate gets nothing but nuttier as the election comes ever closer.  Like the tramp of sweet, cute little lizard, it comes ever closer…

Ahh, a special thank you to Ray Bradbury for the ultimate expression of how I feel about the coming election: something wicked this way comes, indeed!

This way comes the carnival of insults and bitterness…28C1D836-6628-469A-87BF-62D3203305B2

The carnival of partisan rancor and lies…

The carnival of knee-jerk hate and intolerance…

The carnival of everything that’s wrong with us as a nation…

Yeah, I’ll take the starving bears and wolves, thank you very much.

Summer Solstice 2019 and It’s Snowing. Again.

It is officially the Summer Solstice as I write this.  It’s the longest day of the year, the official start of summer, and…well…there’s no other way to say this: it’s freaking snowing.  Again.

01f164abb6067094bdc3837a4bbba401Now, look…you all know me.  You all know that I love me some snow.  Heck, I’ve thought more than once about staying up here in Yellowstone through an entire winter (with our average of 20+ feet of snow), but even I have had enough of this shit.

How about some goddamned sun, for pete’s sake?!?!29627147917_b0d56ed5b8_b

Do I need to sacrifice some animal on the nearest pagan altar?  Because, honestly, I got lots of ‘em around.  I have bison, I have elk, I have tourists…01-Crowd_0544

Okay, so honestly, I’d feel better about the using the tourists than the poor, innocent bison, but whatever gets me some damned sunshine…

images-2What?  Grumpy?  Me?  Oh, please…I’m the soul of cheerful optimism!


On the other hand, most of the tourist kids are having snowball fights, are laughing and jumping and just generally having a great time, while their parents are grousing and complaining about the weather.  You gotta smile at that, even if just a little bit.

2c315dc867c5fac31f5ed5b3fee831bfThe animals, on the other hand, are absolutely loving this semi-weird weather.  Grizzlies are many things — they are fast, they are powerful, they are both awesome and fearsome to watch — but beyond everything else, they are also lazy as hell.  When it gets hot, they just want to loll around in the shade and go for the occasional swim in cool water.  When it stays cold like this?  They’re out moving around, eating and carousing, and in general just having an ursine ball.

And to a bison, with all that insulation?  Yeah, 8 degrees and 80 degrees feel just about the same.Tom_Szajner

It is in fact only us wimpy hoomins who are bitching and complaining that it’s “too cold” and “too wet” and “too grey”…

On the other hand: I’M FREAKING COLD!!


They Lied To Me!

The folks I bought the trailer from ran through a checklist for me of all the stuff they had done to get everything ready.  One of those things was, “filled both propane tanks.”


I ‘bout froze my testicles off from that one!

Look, I know I should have checked the damned bottles myself, just to be sure they really had filled them, but…well…headed into Yellowstone for six months like I was, I had a lot of other crap on my mind at that point…

533F3DB3-8CFE-4EFE-A781-761C2CA49D53I should probably point out something about Yellowstone in spring: it ain’t really spring until summer starts.  Look, it’s May 2nd as I write this and there is 3 feet of snow on the ground.

Well, a few nights ago, the temp dropped to -10 farenheit* and…okay, I think we can all guess what happened then…

*For you Celsius folks, that’s freaking COLD — that’s something like -23 C

Yep, you win the prize!  My freaking propane ran out!

Do you know what happens when the furnace in a 28-foot trailer conks out in that kind of cold?!

Tears, that’s what happens!5F48ECD4-0D02-47A5-AB69-DF75CE577593

The bastards lied to me. They had half-filled one tank, and ignored the other entirely. That deserves a major HARRUMPH!

I would be more pissed, I should add, except…


Except…I’m back in the middle of the damned wilderness.  My house may be small, but my backyard is fucking awesome!

The baby bison — called red dogs, and cute as hell — are just being born right now…

The wolf pups are cautiously coming out of the dens with their parents…

The bear cubs are going absolutely nuts, playing in the snow…

Everything is hungry as hell right now, from the bison down to the chipmunks, so they are all out and eating everything in sight.  Just this evening, in fact, I already had my first close encounter with a grizzly. He was a small one — barely a juvenile who had just recently struck out on his own — but it still was a great reminder just how NOT on top of the food chain I am in this place.

8CFB9B28-9B56-4FD2-8DFC-0E5A4744BF04It was also a majorly cool reminder not just of where I am, but why I’m here.

I can feel the chains falling away, and the words coming back.  I can feel the rhythms and cadences of sentences and phrases and scenes.  I can feel the emotion, and the truth, that is the best driver for any writing.  I sat already, I should add, in a place I wasn’t technically, umm, allowed to be, and the words and images just started to flow on their own…


Yay for stream-of-consciousness blogging today…?

What’s that, you say?  Why am I going all last-minute random on this post?

Because I’m a slacker…we’ve covered that already.  Sheesh.

writerThere was a time — not so long ago — when I kept 2-3 posts queued up, ready to go.  Those days, unfortunately, have long-since passed in a fog laziness and distraction.  So, instead, I sat down this morning, music blaring in my ears and my 2nd coffee (pot) of the day near at hand, and stared blankly at my iPad…

Should I do another random, funny post?  No, not really feelin’ all that funny this morning.

How about a flash fiction piece?  No, that’s for Fridays.

Maybe another politics post?  Oh, hell no.  I just took a shower, I don’t need to get down into the muck and mud, thank you very much.

Well, shit…maybe it’s time to, err, do a post on what this blog is ostensibly about: writing.*

*I should probably, by the way, update the “About” section of the blog, it hasn’t been anything close to the reality of how I write this in like two years.

Screw my iPad, I’m looking out the window now.  I’m looking out at the tail end of a snowstorm, at a grove of bare aspens half-buried in the drifts, at a frozen lake in the distance and a herd of deer digging for breakfast in the foreground, at an adolescent bobcat frustrated as hell because she’s too small to actually get one of those deer…

Err, yeah, I left the city behind for a reason.

Now, if I wanted to go all ambitious and thoughtful, I’d get into symbolism and meaning…get into how we — err, how I — try to use ostensibly “background” images and activities to communicate our — my — own thoughts and feelings as part of the story.

Err…umm…doing that full topic would be a lot of work.*  I think I’ll narrow it down…and then narrow it some more.

*Umm…slacker?  Remember?

Weather.  No, really, I’m gonna talk about the freaking weather, for Pete’s sake.

Weather affects everything in the real world…and should in the written world, too.  From the rhythm and realities of life in the city as much as in the wilds, to our very moods and customs, weather is arguably the most dominant force in our lives.  What, you don’t believe me?

Have you ever been in the far north in midwinter?  In the butt-ass cold?  No sun?  Nothing but snow and cold and dreariness?  Yeah, cabin-fever is very real.

Have you ever lived at the beach?  Warmed yourself in the sun after a day of play in the waves?  

Have you ever lived amidst that stifling, miserable mix of heat and humidity?  Felt air so thick you could barely move through it?

Yeah, that’s all weather — err, well, it’s weather and climate, actually, but I think I’ll skip the pedantry today.  

So what does any of that mean in regards to writing?  How does weather come into (symbolic) play?

That’s a far more personal, and complicated, thing to answer than you might think.  Oh, sure, I could go back to high school creative writing and literature classes and quote the “standard” line about winter=death, spring=rebirth, etc… but that’s all simplistic bullshit.*

*Sorry, high school kids, but most of the curriculum they’re throwing at you is simplistic bullshit…

Look, I lived in northern New England, I understand cabin-fever.  I understand even more the dreary misery the depths of winter can bring, the depression that comes with entire weeks at a time with no sight of the sun…but I still love the winter.  I love a good snowstorm…just as much as I love being the first to hike the backcountry when that storm has passed.  I love the bite of the cold when I’m out, and the almost-unbearable heat that first hits when I come back inside.  I love sitting in front of a much-needed fire, and I love sitting out on the deck all bundled-up…

In short, winter does NOT equal the “season of death” for me.  Winter does NOT automatically equate to pain and misery and decay.  Not to go all-in on sophomoric philosophy, but winter is, for me, a necessary part of the cycle.  You have to have a time for sleep, a time for cold, a time for things to slow down, in order to have anything else.  Without winter, there is no spring.  Without winter, there is no life.

There is a reason, after all, why every single civilization/society in the far northern latitudes has a traditional celebration of warmth and life in the midst of winter.  Yes, some of that goes back to a sense of defiance of the cold and “death” of winter, but it also goes back to a feeling of re-gathering one’s strength, a feeling of freshness and preparation.  In sports terms, it goes back to that feeling of build-up you get in the locker room just before your step out onto the field (or the ice, in my case).

Crap, when I started working on this post, I fully intended it to be about writing, to be about how I use the weather to clue the reader in to my protagonist’s relationship with the Universe at any given moment.  Umm…  Err…  Ahh…


m0crikey_m_khakiIf I try to dive into that at this point, after 850+ words already, we’d be looking at a 3,000 word post.  Crikey!  Remember, by the way, when I mentioned that I’m a wordy sonofabitch?  That I started this blog as a way of working on short-form writing?  Yeah, today’s post just might be Exhibit A for why I need that practice…

Still, I want to close this out with at least something about writing.  Specifically, I want to close it out with a bit about how “overlooked” background elements can — and should, I say! — be used to indicate far more than just atmosphere and mood.

Bear with me, I’ll (try to) keep this short.  In the movie Casino, Martin Scorsese uses DeNiro’s clothes to indicate the character’s deteriorating mental, emotional and ethical state, to indicate how Rothstein (DeNiro) is breaking down as things fall apart.  As the movie progresses, his clothes move from stylish-but-restrained into colors and styles that are more extreme, that are brighter and more aggressive.  By the end of the movie, those clothes are in complete contrast to what he wore when he first moved to Vegas…just as is the character.  In terms of what I hinted at above — about how I use the weather in my writing — DeNiro’s clothes indicate the character’s relationship with the Universe…

In my writing, when I use winter, I am trying to imply more than just death, more than just misery and depression and despair.  I am trying to hint at rebirths and changes to come, at the re-gathering of focus and energy…oh, and at cabin-fever and frostbite, too.