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FergusPolar Vortex

Fergus is scratching at the sliding glass door that leads to the backyard. He turns and looks at me with liquid brown eyes--isn't he supposed to go outside now? Isn't he doing the right doggy thing? Isn't he being a good boy? Why is he under house arrest?

Why are we all under house arrest?

Because it is minus 12 degrees with a wind chill of 30 degrees below zero. And today's temperature is a slight improvement over yesterday's.

Weather. After we celebrate cool sunny spring, revel in bright hot summer, bury our faces in red-gold autumn leaves in ostrich-like denial of what is coming, we look out the window in horror as the winter snow drifts up to the sill and the temperature drops to single digits. Why are we caught off guard? Again? I've lived in the Midwest my entire life and yet every January--or February--or even March, there is always at least one day when I, too, scratch at the sliding glass door and ask myself "why?" Haven't I been a good girl?

polar vortexDuring these impossible winters, after the December holiday glow is thoroughly extinguished, after my late January birthday has once again been postponed because of snow or freezing rain or polar vortex depression, how do we keep the inner fires sparking? (At left, the frost inside the window.)

Reading works. Spring begs for poetry, fall is for non-fiction (back to school and all), summer is good for picture books that help you name the plants or birds that appear as a backyard surprise. Winter demands fiction. Heavyweight books. Preferably read while wearing fleece lined sweat pants and heavy socks, under covers. All of those books that pile up on your bedside table for a year? Maybe two years? The novels you bought when they came out, or you received as gifts--but somehow slipped into the between-seasons pile and fell to the bottom of the stack?

polar vortexI read two novels and one book of short stories in January. Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (I loved Olive Kittredge and My Name is Lucy Barton and I meant to read this right away, as soon as it came out) and Florida (short stories) and Fates and Furies, both by Lauren Groff. All so good, so satisfying, so perfectly suited for winter reading.

Tomorrow is supposed to reach 20-something degrees. Grocery shopping and errands will all, once again, be possible. Fergus (and I) will no longer be under house arrest. And in a few days, once the temp hits 40, we in the Midwest will all be giddy. I'll spot someone wearing shorts. I'll rearrange the books on my nightstand and put poetry nearer the top.

Can spring rummage sales be far behind?

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Books by Sharon Fiffer

Essays: What I Learned at the EZ Way Inn

Jane Wheel Series:
Lucky Stuff – 2012
Backstage Stuff – 2011
Scary Stuff – 2009
Hollywood Stuff – 2006
Buried Stuff – 2004
The Wrong Stuff – 2003
Dead Guy's Stuff – 2002
Killer Stuff – 2001

Sharon's Essays


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