Pam Houston seems to be an extremely talented writer. It comes as no surprise that “A Blizzard under Blue Sky” is a truly compelling short story (despite the fact that it only spans four pages). The reason Houston is able to draw readers in is because she opens by introducing the underlying topic of the piece, than puts the topic on the back burner to make room for a fascinating narrative, and in the end ties the theme and the tale together without making the connection seem forced. Based on her writing structure, the three key points of “A Blizzard under Blue Sky” seem to be identifying her problems/treating depression, persevering through a near death experience, and then realizing how the two are intertwined.
Houston opens the story by detailing what has got her down in life: there are bills to pay, work to be done, and uncommitted men. The combination of this, and maybe even the haze of winter, made it so that “the machine that drives you is broken” (Houston 284). In the story, the doctor suggested medication to get her functioning correctly again, but Houston was adamant that she would never fix her depression with pills. She came up with an alternative solution: winter camping.
From here, Houston drops basically all discussion about her depression. As a result, the reader almost forgets why she was going camping in the first place. Instead of dwelling, she immerses herself in nature hoping to get the same results as a prescription would have achieved artificially. One quote in particular perfectly describes her healing journey through nature, “when everything in your life is uncertain, there’s nothing quite like the clarity and the precision of fresh snow and blue sky” (Houston 284). Although her initial accounts of winter camping seem jovial and fun (she even mentions that the clarity and the sereneness feels like the fourth dimension). Houston’s experience quickly takes a turn for the worse. The sun creeping behind the mountains amplifies her lack of experience and her lack of supplies. Accordingly, she is faced with a fourteen hour sleepless night where her only concern is survival (for both her and her dogs). When the sun came up on House’s snow cave the next day, she describes a feeling of pure joy and relief based on the fact that she is alive. “For the first time in many months I was happy to see a day beginning” (Houston 287). She forgot about the bills, the man, and about the depression. Life and happiness because synonymous.
The final key point of “A Blizzard under Blue Sky” is the first two key points combined: experiencing nature is an excellent way to deal with depression because it allows one to have “remembered about joy”. Houston asserts that nature forces you to step outside of your problems and embrace simplicity. Her story is tangible (maybe a little extreme) example of this, but it undoubtedly encourages the readers to use the natural world as a resource to facilitate “hopefulness”.
I thought “A Blizzard under Blue Sky” was a wonderful story and achieved exactly what it intended to. It provoked happiness, maybe even amazement based on the fact that upon setting out Houston was initially skeptical about the healing power of the natural world, and in turn found how revolutionary an extreme experience can be. What’s most interesting is that Houston immediately turned down anti-depressants. Most people would be thrilled at the prospect of a pill filling the void in their lives. Pam Houston had a different view, “one of the things I love most about the natural world is the way it gives you what’s good for you even if you don’t know it at the time” (Houston 284). The important thing to note here is that she did not know how nature would heal her, but she had an unwavering faith that it would even in extremely harsh conditions. Prior to reading this story, my experiences with nature have not been all that rewarding; I have never had a life changing experience as a direct result...