My first winter in the Northwest has been lovely, all things considered. I have managed to run trails all winter long, often in my shirtsleeves, while snow shovels and bulky winter gear stayed tucked away in storage bins. At the same time, I regularly send grateful thoughts in the direction of my friend who suggested last fall that I purchase a shoe dryer, as that simple contraption has blessed my life immeasurably these past rainy months.
And yet, despite the temperate climate and the occasional sunny days, despite good friends and regular outdoor exercise, I have struggled with my usual winter blues. I find myself irritable and controlling (only partially a personality problem), wrestling a persistent feeling of uselessness and fretting about a host of potential ills that do not actually require my concern.
In my universe, blues necessitate an escape of some sort. Consequently, I return to my tried and true favorite escape and pick up book after book. Since the start of the new year, I have gobbled a host of literary offerings, from Pulitzer Prize winners to philosophy, Young Adult fantasy, biography and even formulaic mystery novels. My literary travels have taken me to Amsterdam, the Caribbean, India, Vermont, Seattle, the Deep South, the fantasy realms of the Six Duchies and the dusty corners of time twisted and turned upon itself. I alternate between feeling renewed by the varied mental landscape and feeling guilty at the idle hours spent.
I do have some favorites among the books that have crossed my path in recent weeks, along with other books that I would fail to recall if I had not dutifully recorded the reading of them in my Goodreads account. Robin Hobbs' Farseer Trilogy and a couple of Archer Mayor books proved great audiobook adventures, with Mayor offering a nostalgic reminder of my years living in Vermont and Hobbs' assassin jogging along beside me on my solitary runs through town.
Harry Belafonte's memoir, My Song, gave me a fascinating glimpse into the American Civil Rights movement and into the life of an entertainer/activist I have admired since childhood. In a similar vein of social consciousness, Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet illuminated World War II from the perspective of Asian Americans caught in the fear that gripped the country in the wake of Pearl Harbor. Woven through both books were the strains of music that floated out of clubs and across color barriers and carried the angst and dreams of a generation.
Two of my favorite reads of the year so far have been Audrey Niffeneggar's The Time Traveler's Wife and Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. I hesitate to recommend them without knowing my audience, as they do offer at least their share of adult language and themes. However, the novels made me think about time and relationships, about fate and the power of art in our lives. I find that depth of thought energizing and a necessary component of my mental diet.
The sun will shine through the clouds soon, and perhaps my need for words from far away places and characters will abate somewhat. But once again, those words and the world they create have carried me through the shadow and lethargy of winter.