January arrives with a dusting of snow, along with seed catalogs and clothing brochures featuring bikinis I no longer wear and island gear that mocks the winter creep of wind and cold. The former makes my mouth water for the produce so bountifully photographed on page after page, while the latter creates an unreasonable desire to pack a backpack and head on down to the Keys.

Since my first trip to Florida’s string of low-lying islands for a writers’ conference, I have itched to return. Seduced by the laid-back lifestyle, the open-air bars serving tropical drinks, the music that overlays the crowing of the wandering roosters, I harbor a secret yen to join those who have forsaken Fifth Avenue for Margaritaville. Ah, but then there are the tomatoes bursting from the page, the Lincoln peas, and the heirloom beans. My small patches of garden do not lend themselves to acres of corn or sunflowers, but I can coax a fair amount of spring veggies from the rich soil, followed by a tender planting of Cherokee Purple and Early Girl.

But something else arrives with the turning of the calendar…new ideas to nourish while the wind blows cold and ice freezes on the driveway. The urge to create blossoms like a Christmas cactus. The bloom of inspiration shadows me as I move from chore to chore before sitting at my desk to write. I have a new light to illuminate the computer keyboard and anticipate the arrival of a new chair with lumbar support and a seat that isn’t cracked. Ah, opulence!

I keep promising myself I will file away the folders that spill over the top of the printer, but secretly I acknowledge that’s not likely to happen. I need them. They keep me on track, reminding me of all the promises I have made…to authors, to students, to friends, to myself. Just as I select the perfect heirloom seeds for April planting, I retrieve the file called Xandra’s cases and dream of sowing plot and setting and characters, of taking a line from a Mary Oliver poem and turning it into a beautiful story. While the fields lay fallow, life slumbers beneath the crusted layers of dirt waiting for the perfect time to come to life. So, too, my stories wait for the right time to grow beyond idea and into form.

May inspiration find you as the year turns from old to new. I wish you good health, prosperity, and adventure!