Walking in Winter Wonderlands . . .



When frosted windows, frigid air, and a flurry of snowflakes signal winter, I want to hibernate– Drink tea, read, and write by a cozy fire.IMAG0007 - Copy

But the more I hibernate, the more restless I get. A card on my bulletin board quotes Franz Kafka:  ‘You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.’ 432

Ducks in Neighbor’s Pond, by my sister Amy Conley http://www.amyconleymusic.com
View of Our Neighbor’s Duckpond

In today’s plugged-in, digital world, I long for stillness, so creative thoughts, or just a sense of peace, fill the silence as a snowfall fills a hushed forest.

But being inside too much makes me feel trapped. I don’t always look forward to going out into the cold, and may think I’m happier in the warm. But I must be outside, using all five senses, to experience winter’s magic and feel alive on this earth.




Winter’s wonderlands offer real beauty.  If we sit in in our rooms, Mr. Kafka says the world will ‘freely offer itself’ to be revealed.



But the world doesn’t only reveal itself inside; it can ‘roll in ecstasy at our feet’ just as easily outside.

Cousins; Stream Below Our Yard, by my sister, Amy Conley, http://www.amyconleymusic.com

And when our boots sink into soft drifts or crunch on a sparkling crust of snow, our thoughts will kaleidoscope into brilliance as beautiful as any snowflake.

These wonderful middle-grade reads  (grades 4-8 but older teens/adults will also love) will have you loving winter as much as any other season–if not more! So, happy reading, happy writing, and happy winter! Some never get to experience it. Some say less is more. But if there’s snow where you are, try to enjoy its beauty before it melts away.

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu 

( www.anneursu.com

(This contemporary re-imagining of Hans Christian Anderson’s classic tale, The Snow Queen, is an atmospheric fable that will reel you in from the first paragraph, one of my favorite openings, ever.)DSC_0022

‘It snowed right before Jack stopped talking to Hazel, fluffy white flakes big enough to show their crystal architecture, like perfect geometric poems. It was the sort of snow that transforms the world around it into a different kind of place. You know what it’s like–when you wake up to find everything white and soft and quiet, when you run outside and your breath suddenly appears before you in a smoky poof, when you wonder for a moment if the world in which you woke up is not the same one that you went to bed in the night before. Things like that happen, at least in the stories you read. It was the sort of snowfall that, if there were any magic to be had in the world, would make it come out.

And magic did come out.’


Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson  ( www.jacquelinewoodson.com )

(Snow is white, gray, old, and new. But as in Frannie’s favorite poem, (and mine), hope is the thing with feathers. And in Feathers, snow is poetry, metaphor–and in Ms. Woodson’s poetic narrative set in 1960s New York City, it is beautiful.)

 ‘His coming into the classroom that morning was the only new thing. Everything else was the same way it’d always been. The snow coming down.  Ms. Johnson looking out the window, then after a moment, nodding. The class cheering because she was going to let us go out into the schoolyard at lunchtime.

It had been that way for days and days.

And then, just before the lunch bell rang, he walked into our classroom.

Stepped through that door white and softly as the snow.’

East, by Edith Pattou ( www.edithpattou.com )

(Beauty and the Beast meets East O’ the Sun and West O’ the Moon in a journey warm and cold, with a bear and alone, encounters with strange wonders, and an end more unexpected than you might think.)DSC_0019

‘”Daughter,” she said, “I do not want to lose you. I have always tried to keep you close. But you must go with the white bear.”

“Eugenia!” I shouted.

“You will use all your wits and your east practicality. And you will not be lost to us, not forever. I know it.” She took Rose’s hand as she spoke.

Rose was pale. She stood. Then she deliberately removed her hand from Eugenia’s and stepped away from her.

“‘East’?” Rose whispered. “‘East’ . . . ” she said again, louder, shaking her head. “No, not ‘east,’ Mother. North.” And her last word filled the room.

Then the white bear was at the door. And before any of us could move, Rose had crossed to him. She reached behind a large wooden trunk that stood by the door and drew out a small knapsack. She must have hidden it there earlier.

“I will go with you,” Rose said to he bear, and I watched, unbelieving, as the animals’ great paws flashed and Rose was suddenly astride the bear’s back as if he were some enormous horse.

The white bear turned and disappeared through the doorway.

Neddy let out a cry and ran after them, grabbing his coat as he went.

I started after them as well, but Eugenia blocked my way.

“She must go. It is her direction. Her choice.”

I looked back at Eugenia. Then looked from her to the empty doorway. I had lost everything I held dear. And there would be no reclaiming it.’

The Watsons Go To Birmingham–1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis ( www.nobodybutcurtis.com )

(As geese migrate to escape the cold, so a family moves south–though perhaps for other reasons. Terrific storytelling, warm family humor, but also loss, heartbreak, and the compelling need to make noise and bring about positive changes in human rights. This novel packs a gut-wrenching punch near the end, but love of family and a determination to work for change and keep hope alive shine through all. Obviously, an important read during the winter because of Dr. Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month in February. But this is not just for February–this is an amazing, all-year-round read. (I also highly recommend How Long ’til Black Future Month, an amazing collection of stories by N. K. Jemisin). How can you not read Mr. Curtis’ novel, or any of his other amazing novels, actually, after reading these opening paragraphs!? Awesome book.)DSC_0023

‘It was one of those super-duper-cold Saturdays. One of those days that when you breathed out your breath kind of hung frozen in the air like a hunk of smoke and you could walk along and look exactly like a train blowing out big, fat, white puffs of smoke.

It was so cold that if you were stupid enough to go outside your eyes would automatically blink a thousand times all by themselves, probably so the juice inside of them wouldn’t freeze up. It was so cold that if you spit, the slob would be an ice cube before it hit the ground. It was about a zillion degrees below zero.’

DSC_0021The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Book 1, Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis  ( www.cslewis.com )

(You’ll be searching your closets for a magic door into the perilous gloriousness of a Narnian winter.  It doesn’t hurt that when the going gets tough, a warm and cozy retreat appears.)

‘A minute later, they came out under the open sky, … and found themselves looking down on a fine sight. … Above the dam there was what ought to have been a deep pool but was now of course a level floor of dark green ice. And below the dam, much lower, was more ice, but instead of being smooth this was all frozen into the foamy and wavy shapes in which the water had been rushing along at the very moment the frost came. And where the water had been trickling over and spurting through the dam there was now a glittering wall of icicles, as if the side of the dam had been covered all over with flowers and wreaths and festoons of the purest sugar. And out in the middle, and partly on top of the dam, was a funny little house shaped rather like an enormous bee-hive and from a hole in the roof smoke was going up, so that when you saw it (especially if you were hungry) you at once thought of cooking and became hungrier than you were before.’

Our Backyard


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