Each year, on the first really miserable day of the coming "dark season" I take a sheet of paper and a sharp pencil and try to outline an action plan for the coming winter. Today, during a cold, gray, and drizzly morning, I decided it was time. I make blocks for the months and a long list of things I would like to accomplish. This year I figure that from 15 October to 15 April I have 181 days to get it all done.
Winters here are an excellent time to play catch-up and to spend the desk-time that gets bypassed and put off when the weather is good and the outdoors beckon. In the old days, the prairie winters were when folks went off their rockers: cooped up in a tiny soddy, or even a more spacious cabin (perhaps even one with wooden floors), with little to do but listen to the wind ransack the environment outside and count off the days until the arrival of spring's miraculous deliverance from winter's cruel embrace.
My winters are a little different. Between the daily chores within and without our warm and cozy house, the dogs, my books, and my many projects, I am well employed during the long dark, winter. I suppose it's a matter of inner resources and I'm fortunate that, so far at lest, I haven't run out of them. Besides, when the road is open it's only thirty-five miles to the nearest café and an occasional celebratory burger-and-fries!
Whatever the plan becomes, I never manage to get it all done. I have a western novella that is "finished," but that I keep tinkering with as if reluctant to let it go. A second, full-length novel is going reasonably well, but plagued with a few critical plot-point hitches that I will try to work out this winter. There are also a couple of non-fiction things I am tinkering with, including a little book about dogs. Then there are the landscape photographs and the portraits of local folk that I have been working on for a couple of years now. Plus I have scads and scads of reloading that needs to get done. I haven't even mentioned the websites that need revamping.
So it will be a busy winter, if I choose to make it that way. In some ways I feel I have no choice. But then I also like to watch the plains undergo their seasonal transformation. Sometimes I think it is time to let the honeyed blandishments of retirement have their day. But then I look at the list and think, No, not yet. Maybe next year.