Today in the snowy valley of Canaan (locally: ka-NAN), West Virginia, Maurizio cross-country skis the miles of groomed trails at White Grass resort and I’m in our apartment with a sprained wrist, writing slowly. Cross-country seems to be a sport woven into my writing life, not because I’m good at skiing. On the contrary. On a cross-country weekend in Opi in Abruzzo, avoiding the slopes to wander the town, I had the first inspiration for my novel. Last year in this resort my overriding obsession was making lists of possible titles for the finished work, already under contract at HarperCollins. This year, off the slopes, I’m thrown into chapter 3 of my next, medieval venture.
For most of every winter, the Canaan Valley wears a thick white blanket, rimmed with soft hills laced with wide trails, originally logging roads, now repurposed for skiers. But in the ’40s and ’50s the white was cauliflower. Ruthlessly lumbered for red spruce in the 1800s (“We didn’t leave a stick standing,” boasted one logger), the land lay abandoned until tons of imported topsoil briefly turned cool, moist Canaan into America’s caulilflower cradle. That didn’t last. Deer devastation and a bud-destroying insect ravished the crops. Now Canaan’s natural resource is snow, abundant and powdery and visitors to the Canaan Valley State Park, highest valley east of the Mississippi, already ancient in the Pleistocene. [photo from whitegrass.com]