Editor’s note: We asked Minerva Rising contributors to respond to this great prompt from PW.org:
“January and February can be harsh months for most parts of the world. The wind howls over the frozen ground, through bare branches and near-deserted streets, fogged windows blurred as though forming a barrier to keep the icy world at bay. On days like these, how do you kindle the fire inside of you? What keeps you going, warms your spirits, and insulates you from the creeping chill? Write a blog response to this. Or, write a poem, fiction or creative nonfiction to serve as kindling — with the power to comfort and warm your heart.”
I’m a March baby, and I was born very close to Lake Erie, so I like, and I always expect a robust winter. And, I’m usually pretty disappointed without one. I look forward to the early nights and those crisp, black-violet sky night views, and the cold mornings, because they’re unlike the typical bright sunny mornings are pretty special, all the winter trimmings don’t go unnoticed by me. Being active with ice-skating, skiing, and sledding helps us goof off and have fun as a family.
We listen to a lot of music at home. I have an old bootleg that a street vendor in Brooklyn gave me. It’s a live Bob Marley concert, indoors somewhere. Peter Tosh sounds about 20 years old and it’s got a very rare version of “Stop that Train” on it. It’s leagues above every other recording I have. When I listen to it, my heart melts from memories of Brooklyn; I feel guilty for having taken it from him that day. But, I thought it was the right thing to do at the time since he was so earnest in offering it to me. So, it’s not just the music, but the stories around the music, and the places that the music invokes that warm the heart too.
I mean, where was this guy when he was recording this? And then, why did he offer it to me? All these very unlikely connections. I have many CD cab stories where the cabbie, listening to something really fantastic, would offer his CD to me. I learned about Youssou N’Dour this way. I mean, all I had was this recording of the music, and I had to ask around and try to match sounds until finally I could track the music to his name; only then did I learn that he was this very famous musician. This is the kind of warm music I’m talking about and this definitely keeps the nip away.
Cooking, too. I like to cook a lot and when I’m in the kitchen I can keep warm. I keep a small fire going in the living room. It’s not huge, but it does the job. And then when it gets really cold, or when we lose power, for example, there’s always this great Schnapps that we get from my husband’s friend.
What I’m saying is that when it gets really cold, you have to call upon a lot of pooled resources – things you didn’t know you relied quite so much on, gifts that were hard to come by, and aren’t going to be in endless supply, certain supplies that turned out to be the very things that got you through the rough times, though you had little knowledge of their real value to you before. Writing and reading, however, are those things that are done no matter what the weather brings. I’m always reading and writing.
Julia Kadlec-Wagner lectures in Academic and Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Before that she taught in and helped to establish Montclair State University’s First Year Writing Program. She is a graduate of the MFA program at City University of New York, Brooklyn College and received her undergraduate in English from University of Cincinnati. She has worked for Elle Décor, Metropolitan Home and Metropolis Magazines. She is a member of many organizations such as The Poet’s House, The Audubon Society, The Modern Language Association, The Academy of American Poets and The College Women’s Club of Montclair.