It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Actually, in Interior Alaska, it starts to look a lot like Christmas around the end of August, when the leaves start falling off the trees. This can be depressing for a lot of people, but for a writer, it's wonderful. Cabin fever is the best incentive to creative writing I can think of. And there is a certain mood about Alaskan winters that permeates a lot of my writing. Modern writers and readers don't have time for mood any more. Contemporary attention spans expect a climax or a corpse in the first paragraph. I just started re-reading The House of Seven Gables, and am really struck by how mood can BE the story in the hands of a master. I don't think Nathaniel Hawthorne could get a fair break in today's publishing atmosphere.
I became aware of mood at a very young age. In the back yard of our Atherton house was a huge old oak tree...the perfect Halloween tree. OAK. If you say it in a spooky, haunting voice, it even sounds scary... "O-o-o-o-a-k...... " I can hear Vincent Price saying that. It sends a shiver up my spine. If you pick up a book and it has an oak tree anywhere on the cover, you know what kind of book it is. Oak even ends appropriately with a 'K' like a lot of other dark words like bleak and dusk and cask and magick and cloak, even "eek!"
Unlike the Oaks that lined Atherton's Fair Oaks Avenue ("Scare Oaks Avenue" ) the trees in Alaska are not moody trees. I live in the middle of a Spruce forest. Even when it's grim and dark and cold (like today at -38 F), our yard looks like a Christmas card. Spruce trees are not scary trees. They're discipliined trees. Their branches slant down uniformly at about a sixty degree angle. Spruce rhymes with Bruce, which really can't elicit goose bumps in anyone. The only time a Spruce tree sends shivers up my spine is if I forget to duck while walking under their branches, and they dump a load of snow down my back.
I've lived in this winter wonderland since 1976, and it still hasn't gotten old. I'm in the mood for Christmas.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.