The bleak season is upon us. The long slow trudge toward spring with few stops to lighten the load. In my part of the country the lid of winter shuts down like a dark box and the days are their shortest, darkest, and coldest. The farm houses are small huddled boxes behind ice coated fields and the stores are now empty. Oak Park turns back into another drifting Prairie town slumbering through the white silence. If one can insulate against this with conviviality or even an office of coworkers who commiserate that "yes it's a good two months until spring " then so much the better. But for writers, it's winter.
I headed out the other night to try and find a spot to go over some pages. Hemingway's attic is too cold, too dark, and too spooky on a winter night. So I crept around the old Victorian streets trying to find some place to park myself for some rewriting. It was about eight PM and the town was already closing up against the ten degree temperatures. A light snow floated down on the Lake theatre marquii. Few people were out. I found a Starbucks and ordered a cup of coffee. There are three chairs and three Mexicans have them. I wait, hoping to grab one chair to get an hours worth of work before Starbucks shuts it's doors too. I feign interest in Oprah's latest selections on a display overhearing their conversation.
"Oh man, that Bill Gates he has 250 billion dollars man! Do you know how much even one billions dollars is man?"
"Yeah man, one thousand million."
"Man, what woudl you do with all that money man?"
I head out from Starbucks back to the cold street breifcase in hand. A diner flicks to darkness as I pass and I keep walking. The Christmas season is past and the retailers have decided there are few customers left. Bill Gates may have two hundred and fifty billion dollars but most middle class people are now broke. I spy the corner bookstore still open and head in with my coffee. No one is in the store and I shake off the cold heading back into the racks. There is a small bench against a wall for reading magazines. I set the coffee down and pull out my manuscript and begin reading. This is good. I can see the snow outside the storefront windows is beginning to accumulate. My coffee is still warm.
My mind is finally able to concentrate on the business at hand. I begin to mark up my pages. For twenty minutes in the corner of the small bookstore I work. And even now I'm thinking of this old winter upon us. What is that bleak silence in the air? Is it the isolation of the writer who has but a stage of one to play for? The writer who has to leave people to find out something about people. Or is it something bigger?
Does Bill Gates stare up into the wide dark sky on a cold winter night with his two hundred and fifty billion dollars and feel the white silence, the cold smoting the planet, the uncaring universe. Or does he tunnel into that money and say, "not for me pal, that's for you writers to think about!" Sometimes, when I get home in the evenings, I try and think of people to call and I realize how many people have drifted away and it is never more acute than in these winter months when one is in darkness and life is spent indoors hiding away while the planet turns away from the sun. I think the writer feels this isolation even more. No long warm evenings on the verandas to mediate on the human condition. The human condition is a flicker of warmth against a frozen wasteland. Maybe that is why winter is such a naked season.
"ATTENTION SHOPPERS - THE STORE WILL CLOSE IN FIVE MINUTES!"
I glance at my watch and put my papers back into my breifcase and leave the bookstore. Outside the street is deserted and the snow is now fat tufty flakes like the balls of cotton one sees in movies falling down onto a Main Street set. My car is down by the Starbucks and I hurry down past the empty stores and under the dark theartre marquee with my breifcase in hand, hurrying past the empty Starbucks, a reflection of just another writer in wi