When I was very young, extended family drove from Massachusetts one winter to visit us in Florida. When they arrived, they were nearly beside themselves with wonder: it had snowed in Florida. They had seen it on the drive in, along Highway 98 between Panama City and my home town of Fort Walton Beach.
Of course, it hadn’t snowed.
What they had witnessed wasn’t snow at all, but the white sand of the Florida Panhandle as they drove across Okaloosa Island. In fact, I have only a few memories of snow. Once, there was enough snow on our back porch to form a small snowball–if you scraped the entirety of one of the benches around the picnic table. Another time, we were driving in southern Alabama and encountered enough snow to have a legitimate (if small) snowball fight. Mostly what I remember of winter is the lower humidity of the salt air off the Gulf, the tourists from New York and Canada and Michigan who swam in water that my friends and I wouldn’t brave, the bonfires with friends at night, the relative emptiness of the roads and hotels and restaurants and beaches.
And these days, living in central Florida, the image of winter for me is a grove, the rows of trees heavy with ripe citrus.
Which is to say, my experience of winter is, perhaps, different from most people’s. It is certainly, on one level, very different from the beautiful image that Sherry O’Keefe captured for this issue’s cover. But on another, it is the same: even here, winter is often a time of dying back, but even at its most bleak, even in what sometimes feels like emptiness, there remains what Whitman names more eloquently than I could hope to:
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
It is no mistake that we celebrate the new year in this, the coldest time of the year, no mistake that we celebrate the beginning of a new year in the cold conclusion of another: we know winter is both a death and a preparation for the life that spring will surely bring.
I am very happy today to present our tenth issue, a collection of work that engages with the natural world and, often, with the beauty and emptiness and despair and promise of winter. I hope that you will find these things as you read this collection of work from a host of wonderful people–Rich Baiocco, Barry Basden, David Blomenberg, George Brooks, Aaron Deutsch, Howie Good, A. H. Hofer, Rose Hunter, Kim Keith, Kathleen Kraft, Helen Losse, Dave Malone, Sharanya Manivannan, David Oestreich, Sherry O’Keefe, Al Ortolani, Scott Owens, Rod Peckman, Sean Ruane, Avery Smith, Judith Skillman, Teresa Tumminello Brader, and John Sibley Williams.
For all of their words, I am grateful.