Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weather as a Muse

I spent some of my weekend researching and writing my story, "Hope Springs Eternal".  I just love researching, especially on a snowy day like today.  For me winter is a good time to entertain my muse.  I tend to get SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and writing activities help lift my spirits.

We barely had a summer this year in central Maine, or so it seems.  I usually say we have three seasons - fall, winter, spring,  and July.  But this year it was rainy and fairly cool until about mid-August.  We got a lot of snow last winter and with our mild summer and now with it snowing again it all seems like one blurry season.  I enjoy the snow, up until about March when I get cabin fever and all the snow around is covered in dirt.  It's rather dismal, and I cannot wait until the first bloom of spring!

I shouldn't complain, because according to my research, and the premise for my book "Hope Springs Eternal", the year 1816 is referred to as "the year there was no summer", "the poverty year", even "eighteen hundred and froze to death."  There are diaries and records from the people who managed to survive that time that have lent to my desire to write about it.  My protagonist will discover how to find hope in a very harsh season in her life, as I imagine that many of the folks who lived then were required to.  Where did their hope come from?  Was faith enough to see them through?

The year 1816 began mildly warmer than usual, but the spring was cooler than normal.  By May a huge cold front brought snow and ice.  This began a 12 week phenomenon of intermittent winter weather. Drought devastated the crops, animals perished in the fields and . . . the cold summer weather forced authors Mary Shelly and John Polidori inside to write.  It's true.  They were attending a literary gathering in Geneva, Switerland and to pass the time, along with their peers, they had a contest to tell the scariest story, of which these two later published.  Shelly wrote “The Modern Prometheus”, better known as “Frankenstein”.  Polidori penned “The Vampyre”, better known as Count Dracula.

There were other literary contributions that are believed to have been inspired by "the year there was no summer".  Lord Byron wrote his poem "Darkness" in July of 1816, as the skies were often the tinge of red and yellow, rather apocalyptic.  We now know that the reason for this and the strange season was due to the erruption of Mount Tambora (Indonesia) the preceeding year. In 1865, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote “Snow-bound”.


About the photos:  I took this one two years ago.  Herds of 
deer ran behind my house and liked to gather in my neighbor's 
yard and visit with her horses (I liked to do the same!). The
turkey photo was taken after they crossed the road in front
of my car so I just had to take a  picture of them heading 
into the field. The tree with a grossbeak and frozen apples
from the previous fall was taken following a spring icestorm. 

Does the snow or other weather inspire you to write?  Songs, poems, stories?  Does writing help you get through the long winters of your life?


  1. Hi Carla -

    Having lived in southern New England for over 20 years, we experienced some harsh winters. Perhaps I should draw on those events. One ice storm in particular stands out in my mind.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Susan :)

  2. Susan, I remember some huge ice storms, too. I lived near Boston then (where I grew up). It's great to draw from our own experiences.

    Were you there for the blizzard of 1978? That was quite the storm. People abandoned their cars on the highway, businesses shut down,there were week long driving bans, we walked to town with a sled down the middle of the street. There was no electricy, we kept the house warm with the fireplace, used candlelight, and shoveled a lot of snow. The snow drifts were phenomenal. I remember we could only see the antenna of our car. It was like living in a timewharp back to the 19th century.

  3. Oooo, I'm so jealous. I ADORE dark and dreary days!

    I'm inspired to write by low hanging clouds and rain, but if I waited for that I'd maybe write one short story per year--or maybe only flash fiction!

  4. Central Maine sounds very much like Southern Manitoba!
    But this was a very strange year...we had an early snowfall in October that melted, thankfully, then we had some very nice weather. Winter just arrived a couple of weeks ago, but now we are in a deep freeze. I'd love to be writing, but can't comcentrate right now, as my father is in hospital. Maybe January will be a good writing month.

  5. Georgiana, I guess you'll have to rely on some other source of inspiration. As for us New Englanders, we always have plenty from the weather.

    I sure hope your father is well soon. Saying a prayer for him now. It is neat to hear how the weather is there in Canada, yest it does sound similiar.

  6. This was interesting; thanks for posting it. There isn't really one season that inspires my writing; I like to write in all of them:) But I do find a rainy or snowy day a cozy and inviting time to write.

  7. Carla, Thanks to you I've found some books that talk about the year of no summer. Amazing first-person accounts! I love that you're writing about that. Truth really is stranger than fiction. Enjoy all that snow. Sounds like a wonderful muse to me:)

  8. I love to write when it is dark and rainy. I don't know what it is about the cozy feel, but it gets my creative juices flowing! (especially with a candle burning on the table next to me and a cup of coffee in hand!)

  9. I learn the most interesting historical facts from you and today's post is no exception. So I guess in some ways the current Twilight craze can trace itself back to that year without a summer, as well.

    I love your photos and the sense of place they give. I've never been to New England but it's near the top of my list of places to visit. And I'm another rainy weather writer. I love cloudy days, which we get a lot of in the winter. But our summers here are what they call "severe clear." I endure them, living for the lovely blended and so-brief seasons of spring and fall.

  10. It's wonderful to hear how you enjoy writing on dreary, cold, and rainy, and snowy days. I think writing lends to cozy, and cozy to writing. Sherrinda, candles and coffee - I like it!

    I'm glad you're enjoying the photos and the history tidbits. As Laura said, "truth is stranger than fiction".

    I hope you all get to visit New England sometime. It really is a beautiful place with such a rich history. Just be sure to come in the fall.

  11. Hi Carla,
    Thanks for the invitation to a much 'cooler' place, and such beautiful pictures. The temperature reached 39C today here in Melbourne which is over 100 for you guys. I would love some snow right now!
    Both John and I are cold weather people. When the day looks gloomy we say it's a perfect 'John and Dorothy' day :)

  12. I'm glad you came for a visit to "cool" off! Ooh, that's a hot day there! I don't like the heat either.


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