Thoughts on the first snow
November letter and updates
Outside my window, the winter’s first snow is falling upon this small village. All the noise from outside is muffled by it, and even the mid-day rush of workers driving often too fast past this house feels less loud.
A few weeks ago, workers came through and thinned out the trees lining the stream that runs along this village. Many of the largest trees, mostly beech, are now gone, as are a few of the larger willows, their stumps remaining as mute witness to the commune’s work.
Such management is “necessary,” but only to mitigate the problems caused by other unnecessary things. There are too few forests on the many hills above the stream. Instead, it’s mostly grazing pastures upon clay compacted by decades of dairy cattle. The soil is as only a little more porous than concrete, and so snowmelt and rain cascade down the slopes in sheets, swelling the stream.
Thus, in heavier rains, the stream will flood, especially if any of the larger trees on its banks fall and block its flow. Were there not a road running along side it, and also nearby houses, the subsequent flooding would present no problem and would in fact help increase the reach of the volunteer trees. Eventually, there’d be a forest again, and more space for the roe deer, the wild boars, the foxes, the many species of owls, and my now favorite animal neighbor, the pine marten.
I’ve seen martens here several times, and each time it’s been the same experience of stupefying awe. They always do the same thing, running up to me and then stopping about 5 meters away, standing on their hind legs, and just stare at me. Each time, I find I cannot move until they’ve relented their gaze, as if I’ve just met a god.
A few months ago, I found a dead one. The poor thing had strayed too far from the forests, likely following one of the streams, and then was killed by a car near the parking lot of an Aldi.
I’ve been known to carry dead animals home with me — especially the corpses of ravens and crows — in particularly bizarre manners. I’ve also laid flowers down and whispered prayers of passing for road-killed deer in full sight of passers-by. Yet the despair I felt when I met that marten’s corpse was too much for me, and though I’d reported it to the commune, my despair only grew as I passed its slowly decaying corpse over days and then a full week.
If I needed to explain to someone why I’m so often in despair about the world, I would just show them the dead marten in the parking lot of a discount grocery store and the stumps of trees in this stream. Very minor adjustments — usually just a little less human effort — would spare us vain effort elsewhere. Perhaps, a little more attention given to what other things do and what other things want would go quite a long way, too.
We are so frantic, and so often. I tire quickly of thinking on how the conflicts of this moment would be much easier to resolve if we didn’t pour so much anxious effort into strife lit and fueled by anxiety. I tire just as quickly thinking on how much effort is put into stopping others from saying and thinking things we don’t want said or thought, whether by the petty tyrants ruling over entire nations or over imagined kingdoms of ciphers and pixels.
The snow which has been falling since this morning has not yet let up, and it’s said to be snowing again later this week. Now’s a perfect time to go follow the streams into the forests here, and perhaps to meet another marten. Such things anyway make much more sense than the world of humans makes at this moment, and will never tire me, nor ever lead to despair.
Book sale: 25% off my 7 previous books
Ritona, the publishing organization that I run, is having its end-of-the-year sale. This includes every title of mine except for Here Be Monsters (which can be ordered by US folks here or on the Repeater Books site).
You can find a master list of my books here, or you can scroll through the sale page to find them. Also, if you want all seven titles for really cheap, order the “full author package” option for The Secret of Crossings, and that gets you all of them for $52.50 plus shipping (that’s $7.50 per book). Just remember to use the code 2023 at checkout.
Signed copies of Here Be Monsters
Four months after they were supposed to arrive, my publisher finally sent me author copies of Here Be Monsters. I’ve had quite a few … strange … blockages regarding this release, and this has been the most frustrating one — I haven’t been able to do any local promotion without them.
Anyway, many more people have asked me about getting signed copies than I actually have, and I need to reserve some of these copies for promotion. So, I’ll need to limit these first to founding supporters, and if there are any left, I’ll open them up to paid supporters.
If you’re a founding supporter and would like one, simply reply directly to the email version of this post and we’ll work out the details.
Other Ways to Support
Several people asked me for an additional way to support me beyond subscriptions and purchasing my books, so I’ve finally created a “Buy Me A Coffee” account. You’ll see a link for it on all posts from today onward, and any tips sent that way will be put towards buying more books for research for future essays.
Again, this is meant primarily for folks who already subscribe and just want to help more. If you’re not a subscriber, that’s the primary way to support me and to also get access to my subscriber-only posts. Again, you can subscribe now for 20% off.
And you can also give others a gift subscription, if you desire:
A Telegram channel?
As a final note, I’d like to know if there is interest in a Telegram channel for my readers. I’d update it occasionally with short notes, photos, and links to things I find interesting but not interesting enough to write an entire essay about.
So, here’s a poll to let me know if this is something you’d like. It would be open to free and paid subscribers.