Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winter's Deep

We are in the depths of winter now, darkness and chill, temperatures plummeting to minus thirty, with a burning wind. Last night, I took a walk with my Bernese Mountain dog, Monty Booh, and my daughter, Rosy. The air was still, so cold and raw we wrapped our wool scarves over our faces. It was an extraordinarily gorgeous night. The sky was a deep midnight blue, the winter-warped trees filagree lace against that wash of indigo. And the moon was full, round and golden. Though we could only stay out for a short while, it was bracing. Hibernating too long and one gets stale.

I love my winter walks on La Montagne, my X-country skiing around and about, the sun warm on my face, or if it is one of those silvery days, the cocoon-like magic inside the woods.

I do savour the stillness, the quiet of winter, the palette that is mostly silvery-gray and white. It is good writing and reading weather. Cozy weather. Inside, of course with a blazing fire and perhaps some hot cider spiked with Calvedos.

Speaking of writing and reading, we lost J.D. Salinger this week. With all of the homages to the reclusive author, one of his quotes from an interview gathers in my mind. "I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."


Leo said...

Winter is a season that is meant to test us in so many ways - our humour, our imagination, our ability to survive. One way to survive the season is to make a point to go out in the cold and snow and play. The problem is the effort required to do so. Spend a half an hour getting properly outfitted and all you want to do after that is get undressed and stay inside.

But if you can get over that hurdle and actually make it outside, then doing something like cross-country skiing is actually a huge pleasure. Eyes crinkling up with the sun glare reflected off the white snow, the sound of the skis as they hiss through the groomed trails, the occasional shout and laugh of other skiers as they tumble and fall while descending a particularly nasty slope, the stark barennes of the trees stripped of their foliage waving helplessly in the wind blowing off the frozen lake below and the feeling of glee that runs through you as you finish your trail, heart pounding, body warmed all over, a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction at the state of things.

Chez Ami said...

Indeed. The ole winter sports, winter sports. There is truth in that.

As to indoor activities, what do you make of Salinger's quote about writing for pleasure, writing for himself?

So many fledgling writers are obsessed with publication...getting out there, and here is this master, who just wants to do his thing.

Leo said...

Salinger did something remarkable as a writer - he published a seminal book that has lasting effect. No matter what he wrote after Catcher, it would always be held up to that standard. So why do it?

With Catcher selling well, the royalties were probably sufficient for him to make a tidy living. With that little detail out of the way, he turned inward and ignored the (literary) world.

In that sense, he reminds me of the idle rich of the 19th Century, flitting from country to city homes, to Europe when it pleased them, and not really caring to pay attention to the real world.

At the same time, he is the antithesis of the idle rich of the 19th Century, for could not care less what other people thought of his decision to live the way he liked.

From Lillian Ross' piece in the New Yorker, he was a recluse, but also engaged with a small circle of friends, loved movies, loved his kids more and liked to travel around when he could. So maybe a literary recluse only.

Salinger was a recluse because he could afford to be. It put him in that unique position of writers to write what he liked for himself and no other. But most writers I know are entranced by glory and so try like the dickens to get published wherever they can.

It would be nice to be sanguine about one's craft and say, yeah, I write, but for myself. And that's as it should be because you need to be happy with what you write. Then, if you are seeking glory, take the next step and see how others view your work. Or don't and be content with what you have produced.