Yes, perceptive reader, this post title is indeed an old James Joyce line - (from The Dead).
Sometimes life imitates art! After working on a scene this morning, with 9 year old Manfred in Breslau in 1945, trying in that scene to describe the weight of the snow upon that city as the Russians advanced from the east, once day broke and I could see outside my own windows, the snow was falling heavily here as well. Bit intriguing to be "willing" yourself into a snowstorm in your mind as you write - and then - when it is time to go out into the morning, to be literally and physically in a snowstorm.
The two "snowy" ones are this morning (Nov. 22), the other one is just a nice one from yesterday morning (Sunday Nov. 21).
And maybe you're curious!! :)
This is the (partial) Breslau scene - this being from book two of the Within This Darkness trilogy:
Breslau January 20, 1945
On January 20, 1945, snow fell endlessly from dark clouds. The snow was so thick, and added so much weight to the air, that it nearly silenced the desperate chaos around Manfred. At times, when he looked back as an adult, Manfred would wonder if he’d suffered some manner of stress induced deafness that day. But no - it had simply been the snow - falling so heavily it was as though someone, somewhere, was trying to bury the city and erase it from memory.
The Russians were coming. If there was one simple fact, in the mind of every German in the city of Breslau, and every German in the east, it was that the Russians were coming. And they were bringing terror and destruction with them. Everyone had heard of what the Russians had done in Nemmersdorf, and what they were doing to all German citizens as their furious revenge rolled its way across Poland into Germany. And so all of the German east was fleeing west towards Berlin, and Breslau, a gateway city between the east and the west, was overflowing with refugees heading west, and soldiers heading east.
Refugees, and, as Manfred had been seeing for days now, cows. And sheep. And horses. Poor farm families from eastern Silesia were herding their lives, including their cattle, west, to keep them out of the hands of the Russians. Manfred’s 9 year old mind was barely able to make sense of what he was seeing anymore - and the sight of thousands of refugees, and herds of cows and sheep - staggering through his elegant and ancient Silesian city numbed him. It was hard to believe that only a few days ago he’d been in school. And now, the world was ending.
Fighting their way against the waves of refugees, were ragged units of the German military - if “military” was still the right word for groups of old men and young boys yanked from their homes, given a Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon, and a black-red armband with the words Deutscher Volkssturm : Wehrmacht. These soldiers, sometimes struggling forward beside military vehicles, attempted to make progress against the wave of grief-stricken humanity fleeing to the west.
And all of this - the refugees and cattle heading west, the soldiers heading east, the explosions now and again as German engineers blasted the earth vainly trying to dig trenches to slow up Russian tanks - all of this happened almost in silence, as the snow simply fell, and fell, and fell, upon a dying city.
As I type this, Canadian thanksgiving is well in the past, and the leaves are fully changing colour, and there was even a frosting of snow on the ground this morning. Another summer season of bicycling is behind me now. I would normally switch to my indoor & online cycling set-up at this point, but wow, a switch has really flicked in my mind this fall, and my enthusiasm for cycling and exercise in general has gone "poof" and disappeared in a way that I'm almost astounded by.
I feel like my brain - in the course of a few weeks - has flipped back 20 / 25 years to the "me" of my late 20s, who was living in basement apartments in Toronto and spending all my free time writing novels. The desire to be active and kayak and bike has really given way to the desire to put words on paper again. Contemplating a re-commitment to writing is quite honestly a melancholy feeling.
While almost every bike ride or kayak trip that I do... I do solo... there are still ways to make all those activities very social - primarily by sharing them with your social network on Strava... where you get instant "kudos" and comments and congrats and jokes from friends around the world when they see the map and photos from the 100km bike ride you just did. To give that up, and move to you alone in the darkness, morning after morning, writing words that you delete within 5 minutes ... well, it's not easy.
Autumn always brings the urge to write, for several reasons. The month of November represents NaNoWriMo in my brain (although I don't always officially "do" Nanowrimo and am not doing it this year). But national novel writing month obviously encourages a person to write. As well, Within This Darkness (up until recently titled Within These Trees) is set in the fall... and as I move through autumn forests in my real life, I think of my characters moving through autumn forests, and that makes me want to write as well. And then probably the shift in weather all by itself encourages a person to write - the cold Canadian weather making you want to buckle down with your manuscripts rather than don spandex and go for a bike ride.
And, I've been flipping through notebooks this fall, and seeing dates that I scribbled in the margins... for example Nov 2019 beside notes from two years ago about Breslau in January 1945 when German citizens fled the city under Russian bombardment. I've been working on this book and this trilogy for too long now. Heck - the genesis of it dates back to around 2000. But... the modern version... I need to finally finish this thing and get it out of my mental landscape... and move on.
Perhaps it's finally time to buckle down, and bring this story fully to life, and then shake my thoughts clear, and move along.
I'm Chris Tomasini.