I've been sitting here all weekend in chilly but sunny Hilton Head, South Carolina, watching the reports of the blizzard of '09 as it blasts its way up the East Coast, and I'm reminded of my days in northern Ohio. We lived just a few miles from Lake Erie, out in rural Lorain County, on three acres of land with a pond in the front yard and a creek meandering its way along the western boundary of our property. We loved being isolated, feeling sometimes as if we were on an island in a sea of white when the Alberta Clippers roared out of Canada and dumped a foot or more of snow on us. I remember particularly the Great Blizzard of 1978 (I had a T-shirt back then announcing our survival) during which we were marooned for the better part of four days. Remember this was back before the Internet or cell phones, so when the electricity went out—as it almost always did—we were pretty much stuck with a transistor radio for news of the outside world.
Now what, you may ask, does all this have to do with writing Southern? Well, not much, really. What all the hubbub about this weekend's snow brought so vividly back to mind was that feeling of being snuggled in front of a roaring fire with candles and a few battery-powered lanterns for illumination . . . reading. That's what I think of when I remember being snowbound in Ohio. I had hundreds of books lining shelves on either side of the fireplace, and I would take one down that I hadn't read in a while, an old favorite, and curl up for hours while the snow swirled around the house and the wind off the lake piled it up into drifts past the windows. Wrapped in a sleeping bag, I could spend as long as I wanted with my books, secure in the knowledge that we'd be okay until the county came to dig us out. With my husband and stepson similarly occupied, we'd occasionally take a break to roast some hotdogs or warm a can of soup on a tripod rigged up inside the fireplace, but mostly we read.
Of course, I was thirty years younger during the Great Blizzard of '78. And, as is often the case, such a long perspective may have colored my memory just a bit. I'm sure it wasn't as snug and cozy as I remember it. I'm sure there were times when we all got stir crazy and snapped at each other. But still . . . In my mind, it was a time for setting aside all the unimportant things that caused me stress, for just being in the moment. With a good book.
If any of you found yourselves in a similar situation this past weekend, I hope you kept warm and dry and well-fed. And that you had lots of favorite books to help you pass the time. It would give me a tremendous amount of pleasure if one of them happened to be mine. Wouldn't that be the ultimate in synchronicity?
Kathy Wall grew up in a small town in northern Ohio. She and her husband Norman have lived on Hilton Head Island since 1994. Her 9th Bay Tanner mystery, Covenant Hall, was released this spring from St. Martin's Minotaur. Look for Canaan's Gate on April 27, 2010.