Sometimes it’s difficult to think of something to write about. Sometimes, something doesn’t just jump up and say, “This is what you want to write about today.” I have a cursory list of subject matter, based on stuff that interests me and the evolving issues taking place in the world. Often, a subject I think I’d like to write about is a dead issue by the time I get to it. So it falls off the list.
Sometimes, the something I start with in a piece of writing becomes something else entirely. If I don’t have a complete agenda or outline of my intentions, it’s very easy for me to become side-tracked or otherwise led astray so that my last paragraph or sentence has little, if anything, to do with the first. Then it’s time to reevaluate the beginning to see if something can be done to make the whole more satisfyingly of one mind, or one thrust.
It’s Sunday, and the temperature outside is 10 degrees Fahrenheit. At my house, when the temperature gets down near the single digits of F, our wooden deck starts popping. The pops can often be very loud, and have been known to rouse me from a sound sleep. It was a little unsettling the first winter here, hearing those strange protestations of the cold by an inanimate object. The deck isn’t the only indicator of weather around here. The pond behind our house also has a way of announcing weather changes. It is now completely iced over. As the temperature rises or drops throughout the day and night, the pond often moans and groans and explodes as the water and the ice fight for control. The level of noise on our pond is nowhere near the kind that occurs on the Great Lakes, but it is still pretty impressive.
I’m always amazed at how naturally defenseless humans are against the cold. Imagine us trying to cope with the frigid weather like the birds and the other animals do. With only their feathers or fur, they manage to survive outside through nights that are so cold and hostile that we can only imagine how awful it would be to be out there even in heavy coats and long underwear. Put yourself on a tree branch between dusk of one day and dawn of the next, perched there the entire time, with wind blowing at 10 mph out of the west and the temperature dropping gradually till it reaches, at it’s lowest point, 20 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. How much sleeping do you think you could do? Birds can do such stuff even with their puny little bodies and their spindly little legs. We are so fragile.
But we are so smart. We have our insulated clothing to get us through short periods outside, and our homes to retreat to when the cold is too much to bear. When it’s warm outside, we can change into our summer clothing and crank up the air conditioner in the house. We can deal with just about anything Mother Nature throws at us. Just about anything, except for those horrendous but rare calamities like tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and, the rarest of rare, death by meteor.
Some of those natural disasters are as lethal for birds and animals as they are for us. Any kind of creature that was inside a building in Haiti several weeks ago, human or animal, would have been crushed by the falling buildings. Tornadoes and hurricanes and floods take tremendous tolls among all species of creatures. And if the actual event doesn’t do away with a particular animal, the subsequent change in environment might.
All this makes me appreciate quiet mornings when it’s cold outside and the gas and electric bills are paid, and there are no utility outages, and the radio is on to the station of my choice and I’m writing something that will end up in print whether a publisher likes it or not. I might be fragile, but in my own mind I’m making the most of my other natural tools. I’m playing the hand that evolution has dealt me.
I’m not going to go back and change the beginning of this spontaneous treatise to make it more whole or give it more thrust. Take it or leave it, what you see is what you get.