The Direful Monster

“Lo! Now the direful monster, whose skin clings

To his strong bones, strides o’er the groaning rocks:

He withers all in silence, and in his hand

Unclothes the earth, and freezes up all frail life.”

William Blake (“To Winter,” from Poetical Sketches, 1783)


The direful monster has been hovering at my windows and doors here in the north country of upstate New York, where temperatures have been below -20 all week. Add wind chill to that number, and it feels like 40 below, but really, what difference does it make when you go below zero? A meteorologist threw a cup of boiling water in the air on television last night, and it instantly turned to powdery snow before it wafted to the ground.  Ummm…that’s a crippling cold. It makes me want to hibernate.

But it does remind me of one of my earliest experiences as a writer. True story:

When I was little, we were pretty dirt poor. We lived in a poorly-insulated home, heated with a wood stove. On super cold days like this one, my bedroom walls would be covered with a thick layer of white crystalline frost.

But there were some silver linings in all that fuzzy white. Some mornings, I would awaken to find my blankets frozen to the wall, which gave me a great excuse not to make my bed. And if I was restless in all those hours I was supposed to be sleeping, I could literally roll over in the bed, and scratch my name in the frost with my fingernail.

Once, I woke up in the early hours of the morning from a really nice dream–one of those silly dreams that you can’t wait to tell a friend all about at school. I wanted to jot it down before my sleepiness made the memory foggy, but I didn’t have a pen and paper handy to write it down, and even if I did, it was too cold outside the comfort of my blankets to retrieve them. So I rolled over and scratched out the events of my dream in the frost on my wall. It worked. I woke up a few hours later, read my notes detailing my dream story, and went to school with a happy heart. I may not have defeated the dire monster of winter, but I learned one way to hop on his back and enjoy the ride.

What are some of your earliest memories of writing? How do you deal with the dire monster of winter?

I hope that, if you are living somewhere in the world where it is monstrously cold, you aren’t letting winter sap your energy and your productivity. Keep writing, friends, even if you have to scratch your story in frost.

Tara has today’s Poetry Friday round-up at A Teaching Life.  Be sure to check it out! Happy Frosty Friday, friends!