Monday, January 31, 2005

White Space

Today as I sit down to write, I am confronting the dilemma that many writers face: white space. A whole computer screen of white space, and the weight of the chore of filling this space seems heavier than usual today.

This time of the year in Minnesota the experience of "white space" is an experience that transcends writing. All of us who live here have a daily encounter with white space: we have lots of space, and lots of white. Miles upon miles of flat, white space punctuated by the occasional sihloutte of a tree, a barn or a train.

Speaking anecdotally, this is the time of the year the newspaper seems to double the space of the obituary section. I would bet my car that what I am about to say could be quantifed by research; this the time of the year when we see a dramatic rise of the obituaries of those very old people, in their late 80's, 90's and beyond.

The reason appears clear to me -- its not a great time of the year to be alive up here. The temperatures can be very cold. Old people don't get out much, because the sidewalks and roads are slippery. They probably get fewer visits. The holidays are over, and there's probably some post-holiday depression. Throw two more months of hard, cold Minnesota winter into the picture, and the call of great-beyond starts to get a little louder.

Spring seems so far away. I've seen it several times, where senior folks seem to be able to nudge themselves over the fence to the otherside. My own Grandmother did this. She told me around her 91st birthday that she thought "God had forgotten her." Shortly after the Christmas holidays, she had worked herself into a funk, and suddenly we were at a funeral. There wasn't anything really wrong with her at the time. It was almost as though she had decided this thing for herself.

My oldest son is intrigued at the idea that summer has "gone south" for the Minnesota winter. He wants to get on an airplane to South America so he can find Summer, and perhaps bring it back early. I deal with the winter by working. Head down, I'm working my way through winter, and when I lift my head to look around, hopefully spring will be at hand.

Actually, I am exaggerating somewhat. Maybe next time I'll write about the pleasures of winter. But today I will indulge my melancholy, because it helps me cope.

Todays lesson: once in awhile, indulge your melancholy because it helps you cope.

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