I have no trouble avoiding boredom on snow days, when 1st Grade classrooms are empty, preventing me from doing Winners Walk Tall lessons, or Bible study is cancelled, freeing up Tuesday mornings. Being stuck at home offers opportunities to try new recipes, crochet for Warm Up America and the American Heart Association, or take in some lectures from college professors such as The University of Iowa’s Brooks Landon who is teaching me to Build Great Sentences.
A couple of years ago, I began receiving catalogs from The Great Courses offering audio and video discs loaded with lectures from The World’s Greatest Professors on an array of topics, topics ranging from math, science, and history, to drawing, cooking, and psychology. After a moment of wistful consideration, I always added the junk mail to our recycling bag, that is until the latest catalog’s cover touted an 80% OFF Special Sale for New Customers. Flipping through the booklet, I turned down corners of pages displaying courses of interest, realizing that the chances of an order being placed were slim, but tossing the catalog onto a table for later consideration.
When I next opened the cover, two red words caught my eye. A FREE TRIAL offered unlimited video streaming of all of the courses for thirty days, giving me a chance to test my level of interest before purchasing individual discs or a monthly subscription. Starting my trial was easy, and now I’m looking forward to watching the eighth of twenty-four lessons from Professor Landon, a lover of long sentences, who encourages writers to “change the period to a comma and keep on writing.”
On one of these wintry afternoons in January, I was listening to a Building Great Sentences lecture while adding a bag of chicken bones, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and parsley to a stockpot full of water. As I covered the pot and turned on the stove to induce a boil, Professor Landon likened a writer building a great sentence, rich with descriptions and details, to a chef boiling down a broth or sauce, resulting in a richer, fuller end result. I was experiencing the very illustration he presented! Wanting to document this moment of wonder, I took a picture of the simmering pot of water and then sat down to craft a sentence about making chicken stock.
Tiny droplets of water formed on her hands as she held the camera over the brimming pot to snap a picture, knowing that a picture is unable to convey the sound of a watched pot slowly coming to a boil, the smell of water turning to broth, or the sensation of being warmed by both the heat of the burner and the moist comfort of rising steam on a cold winter day.
Yesterday afternoon,I considered writing a post similar to Summer in Ohio, but instead took the opportunity to craft some sentences about our winter weather, existing on the other side of the window through which bright sunshine was streaming into our comfortably heated home.
Winter’s cloudy skies, now raining, now snowing, deliver precipitation with a crucial measure of heat called “freezing” deciding which.
Driveways, streets, and parking lots disappear as fragile snowflakes in growing numbers work together, blanketing the landscape, enjoying a bit of time undisturbed before shovels, snowblowers, and plows intrude.
The sun, as bright as a summer sun, stays low in the sky, warming spirits, but not bodies, and disappearing by dinner time.
Weather has its way, dominating our conversations, dictating our clothing choices, deciding whether crops thrive or die.
Weather tricks and teases, ignoring averages and expectations, dropping a day of springtime into the middle of January, chilling a June bride, capriciously coating a palm tree with snow, quickly overwhelming streams with a deluge of rain, coaxing spring flowers to sprout and then plunging them into a deep freeze.
Were weather to attempt to behave, to harness its extremes, finding a perfect balance of wet and dry, warm and cold, windy and still, could it succeed in pleasing those it serves, making everyone happy, able to enjoy favorite activities or necessary duties?
I can almost hear my sentences being read by Professor Landon. I’ll close with an inspired weather sentence recorded by the Bible’s prophet Isaiah.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10,11