Give it Sweetness

What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it  sweetness. John SteinbeckMy friends, it’s bitterly cold today in Michigan. I’m sure it’s this cold in other places like, say, Saskatchewan. But, right now, I’m focused on how freezing cold my toes are.

December wasn’t this cold. It wasn’t snowy or icy or dreary. December was kind.

Then January came and sucker punched us right back into reality. It said, “There’s a price to pay for living in the state with the coolest shape. That price? Winter.”

John Steinbeck wrote in Travels with Charlie, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness”.

Yes. I love summer so much because I have context for how very cold winter is. There’s a contrast. I have something to compare it to.

You know, I’ve gone through different figurative seasons in my life. I’m sure you have, too. Times when life wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. Periods of stress and depression. Days that just plain sucked the joy out of me.

Other times, life is good. I’m genuinely happy. I laugh more easily, let go of offenses more readily. I have a good outlook. The joy overwhelms.

When all is well, I am tempted to forget about the darker days. To deny that part of my history.

Should I do that, the good wouldn’t seem as special to me. I wouldn’t appreciate it as much.

It’s the struggle that makes the smooth times so precious.

As a novelist, I deal in the struggle times of my characters. I mean, who wants to read a book about the time when everything was happy and good? Nobody. Even the fluff books don’t do that. There’s always conflict.


So that the resolution to the story (even if it’s not complete) is so much more satisfying. The conflict is the contrast to the resolution. The story is how the characters survived (or didn’t) the struggle/hardship.

While I was writing A Cup of Dust (due out with Kregel Publications this coming fall), I put my protagonist through some difficult things. The whole time, I kept reminding myself that the resolution was coming. It was the only way I could power through the scenes that were especially difficult to write.

I found that the conflict I put in Pearl’s way (she’s my protagonist, I think you’ll love her), made the resolution that much more powerful.

Just as it is in real life.

The cold/hardship/pain/sadness opens our eyes to how very good the warmth/ease/healing/joy is when it comes along.

2 Comments on “Give it Sweetness

  1. Love this. So very true. We just told one of our sons (going through a hard time of his own) this very thing over the weekend. The struggle makes you stronger and makes the joy of good days even more precious. The sun is shining here in Indiana today, but I know more snow and cold are lurking just around the corner!


    • You know, as a parent, I think it must be so difficult to see a child go through tough times. But, you’re right, it makes us stronger. Your son is very blessed to have wise parents.

      Enjoy the sunshine, Ingrid!


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