On Saturday, we went horseback riding in the mountains. It was 10 degrees, and after 30 minutes, I couldn’t feel my face, my fingers, or my toes. But it was worth it – it was such a beautiful ride. I’d share a photo of the stunning view in the woods, but it was too cold to get my camera out. My fingers were so fumbling, I was afraid I’d drop it.

The horse had to punch through the snow with every step, which made a rhythmic crunch, crunch, crunch as we followed the guide down the trail. The trees were snow-covered, and the woods were silent, except for the tramp of our five horses. Scores of slender white birch trees arched over us. They all bent gracefully in the same direction, their backs coated with snow and their smallest branches entirely encased in ice.

Our guide said an ice storm had bent them all like that. It was still odd to see those trees warped in an identical fashion, as if some giant wind were blowing them – or they were reaching towards an invisible and unattainable goal – or trying to get away from something terrible.

Yes, my imagination was not as frozen as the rest of me. My head was very busy, looking at the trees and thinking about my new idea. Not the steampunk one; the other one, the one that just started developing over these two ski weekends. A couple of characters introduced themselves to me on Saturday, and I’ve got to find a place in the story for those trees …