Not so long ago, I thought the perfect winter was one spent in a tropical paradise. After years of vacationing in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, my dream of spending half of the year there came true. It only lasted two winters when Hurricane Irma devastated the island, but I will always be grateful for that time. I loved writing with my toes in the sand.
I am a survivor if nothing else. I licked my wounds and searched for an alternative spot. A tiny village on the Pacific coast of Mexico named San Pancho called to me. I spent the next three winters exploring and adoring my new winter spot. Writing under a papala while gazing at the ocean was divine.
Enter Covid. I don’t have to remind you about our Winters of Isolation when it was hard to complain about not getting to go to paradise while thousands of people were dying daily.
Now I am in another season where the illness of a loved one makes travel impossible. I am where I am supposed to be, which is another definition of paradise. Like my beloved grandmother, whom my father often accused of being Pollyanna, I can look on the other dark side of any funnel cloud. Nanna knew either she could resist the forces she couldn’t control or she could embrace the tiniest pinpoint of light, and that light would grow.
My summer home, a modest tindominium, an RV converted to a metal cottage, is on outer Cape Cod. Overflowing in the summer, the Cape becomes stunningly barren in the winter. There is a stark bleakness that reveals the hidden beauty of nature that miraculously can awaken a spark within, and quiet desolation becomes contentment.
I won’t pretend that writing under a palm tree on a beach in the Caribbean isn’t fabulous. It is, and I wish every writer the opportunity to experience it. Yet, the writer’s universal search for the truth, or our own truth, may be easier to find in the naked bones of winter. When the cold biting mist off the Atlantic bites your face with ice, you know the truth of misery. The utter emptiness of a beach without colorful towels and squealing children building sandcastles can bring a gulp of loneliness to your throat until you think you may never swallow again. The light in late afternoon with long shadows against a pink and purple stripped sky makes your heart open to joy while tears fill your eyes for not appreciating all the skies before.
And so you write. Bare to the bone, closer to your core than you thought humanly possible.
This is the miracle of winter. A writer’s paradise.
C. Michele Dorsey is the author of Oh Danny Girl and the Sabrina Salter series, including No Virgin Island, Permanent Sunset, Tropical Depression, and Salt Water Wounds. Her latest novel, Gone But Not Forgotten will be published by Severn House in July 2023. Michele is a lawyer, mediator, former adjunct law professor and nurse, who didn’t know she could be a writer when she grew up. Now that she does, Michele writes constantly, whether on St John, outer Cape Cod, or anywhere within a mile of the ocean.