Weathering Winter: A Gardener's Daybookby Carl H. Klaus
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In winter, when the only things growing seem to be icicles and irritability, what pleasures exist for a gardener or for anyone who lives in a northern climate? In his distinctive daybook, Weathering Winter, Carl Klaus reminds readers that the season of brown twigs and icy gales is just as much a part of the year as when tulips open, tomatoes thrive, and pumpkins color the brown earth. From the first cold snap of late December 1994 to the first outdoor planting of onion sets and radish seeds in mid-March 1995, Klaus kept track of snow falling, birds flocking, soups simmering, gardening catalogs arriving, buds swelling, and seed trays coming to life. Gardeners, lovers of the out-of-doors, and weather watchers will recognize themselves in the ways in which Klaus has come to terms with the harsh climate and chilly truths that winter embodies. His constant, careful checks on the temperature and on the geraniums overwintering in the attic, his contentment in the basil- and garlic-flavored tomato sauce he cooked up from last season's crops, and his walks with his wife in the bitter chill of starry January nights reflect the pull between indoors and out, the contrast between the beauty and the cruelty of the season.
Meant as a companion volume to Klaus's previous daybook, My Vegetable Love (1996), this diary sequel was kept during the winter of 1996 from New Year's Eve to March 15th. It is smaller and less vital than the book before. Perhaps the season itself imposed a constraint on Klausgardeners like to have growth to write about. For lack of that in his snow-filled "three-quarter-acre lot," the wind-chilled author becomes monotonously obsessed with his midwestern "warlike weatherscape." He combs the Internet, the Weather Channel, and the almanacs for long-range forecasts, fussing over the season's shifting moods and temperatures. To soothe mild woes, he downs countless bowls of soup. He ritually walks his dog, doctors his cat, considers seeds, and feeds the birds. Klaus's inevitable cabin fever, though, fails to lead him toward introspection or insight. He doesn't have the stamina, the imagination, or the bent to think about winter or observe it in depth. Even his verbal snapshots of wintry scenes seem willfully trite. His avuncular charm may need a fuller page, a tree with fruit to describenot the grip of ice. The fact that the season brings him no real hardship, only a predictable frustration and inconvenience, also keeps the drama out of this tale of supposed stoicism and rumored wherewithal. When Klaus worries that his written "winter watch" may seem "trivial" to others, he is right.
Dull heartland postcards about the fallow months.
Meet the Author
Carl H. Klaus, founding director of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, professor emeritus at the University of Iowa, and coeditor of Sightline Books: The Iowa Series in Literary Nonfiction, is a diarist, essayist, and author or coauthor of several textbooks on writing. His nonfiction includes My Vegetable Love (Iowa paperback 2000) and its companion Weathering Winter (Iowa, 1997) as well as Taking Retirement: A Beginner’s Diary and Letters to Kate: Life after Life (Iowa, 2006).
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Excellant book to read on a cold winters day