Call me a glutton for punishment. I’m a Minnesotan. Record snowfall in February. Major snowstorm in March. Too many difficult driving days to count. Commuting time up three-fold for just a trip to the dentist. Spring flooding expected. So, why is it I stay??

The reason I stay in Minnesota is that I absolutely live by the season, and anxiously await each in turn. My psyche is in sync with the pattern of change. The renewal of spring, the resplendent joy of a short and thereby celebrated summer, the glorious color display of autumn, and then the drama of icy cold, snow and the dormancy of winter.

Now that we Minnesotans are on the cusp of spring, we congratulate ourselves for our heartiness to have survived the winter—“a bad one this year”— and watch for the first buds on our trees, and a glimpse of crocus trying their best to push up through the mulch still covering  the garden.

Of course, to survive a Minnesota winter, especially this one, the lucky ones among us find a way to leave for a time. Choose your relief—warm or warmer. Golf vacation or beach. Fight the travel hassles that come with school breaks in March or go in February? Should you go mid-way through the winter, and fortify for the rest of it upon your return? Or try to time it to come back when the snow is actually gone? This is tricky, as there is no sure bet.

I admit to being lucky. I just got back from a week in Sante Fe. A writer’s retreat, which was artistic renewal as well as physical rejuvenation. The gym is fine, but there’s really nothing like being able to take a walk outside. This year, with the thick and impenetrable ice layer under the snow on everything, it was not easy to take a walk. The Minnesota waddle is for safety not looks! Sante Fe with its museums, galleries and great food is a lift for the soul regardless of the season. Just to be able to meander without worry was a pleasure.

Finally, the snow is almost gone in my yard! There is a heavy pack hanging on the side of the driveway where the snow and ice from the street piles high, and the snow-blowing from my driveway tops it off even higher. It’s melting its way down slowly. It will definitely be gone before the buds on the red bud are out.

For me, spring is a time to start new things, or put new energy into things set aside. The writer’s retreat re-energized me to pull out the third draft of my second novel and move forward. A three month hiatus from working on it wasn’t such a bad thing. Busy with the run-up to publication on A Better Next, I certainly wasn’t idle. And, of course, I always take time to read….and learn from other authors. Since I began writing, I am a more observant reader.

I love it when authors weave a sense of place into a book so skillfully that you think you are there with the characters. Virgil Wander, the latest book by Leif Enger comes to mind. I just finished listening to the audio presentation. Enger is a masterful story-teller. He writes the landscape, climate and cultural attributes of the North Shore of Lake Superior so well that the reader responds to it as almost as a character in the novel.

Another author, Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing, left me with a visceral knowledge of the marshes of Barkley Cove, a small coastal community in North Carolina. Along with the non-fiction book Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush, I have a new appreciation for the dangers of climate change to our coastal communities and their ecosystems.

Inspired by their art, I’m motivated to use these lessons in my own work. Spring forward, right?