I think that my dread of the dark days surrounding the winter solstice has been diminished by my years spent living in London. All things are relative. At 39 degrees latitude, Westcliffe has considerably more daylight hours than London which is in line with Hudson Bay at 51 degrees and 32 minutes. During the winter, London dawns at 9:30 a.m. and dusk descends at 3:30 p.m. London’s day is short and puts my Colorado complaints in perspective. Long live the sun!
I’m reading Forward From Here by Reeve Lindbergh, the youngest of Charles “Lucky Lindy” Lindbergh’s six children by his American wife Anne Morrow – not to be confused with his children born to his three additional wives. (My goodness, what a busy, complex man! I had no idea. If you don’t know about Lucky’s dark side, learn more about him by typing “Charles Lindberg’s Secret Children” into your search engine. When we writers were advised to make our characters multi-dimensional with a good mix of flaws and attributes, our teachers should have held up Charles Lindberg as a model.)
Reeve Lindbergh’s essays do not dwell on her childhood, her father, her newly found siblings, or her brain cancer; rather, she (to quote Penelope Green reviewing the book in The New York Times) “writes about the view from age 60 and beyond with one eyebrow firmly arched.” I love that… ‘with one eyebrow firmly arched’ says so much about Forward From Here in terms of tone and topic.
In one essay, Reeve writes that during the dark days of winter, she reads warm weather books. Tropical heatwave books. Quite to the contrary, despite the freezing weather and new snow and the forecast of more snow, when I am cold, I read books that are set in colder weather. All things are relative.
My favorite cold weather books that I re-read every winter include the following:
- Jane Smiley’s The Greenlanders, the story of a Norse civilization in Greenland that ultimately dies out because they chop down all the trees and have no wood to keep warm or build a boat that would allow them to move to a warmer climate.
- O.E. Rolvaag’s Giants in the Earth, a Dakota tale originally written in Norwegian, is of immigrant life in a sod hut. The isolation breathes down your neck.
- Halldor Laxness’s Independent People won the Novel Prize in Literature. This book takes place in Iceland. It is freezing cold and life is precarious. Annie Proulx has said that this is one of her “top ten favorite books of all time.”
- And speaking of Annie Proulx, don’t forget The Shipping News. Imagine living in a derelict house so at-risk of blowing off the cliff and onto the ice of the North Atlantic that the house is cabled to the rocks.
- And giving the nod to nuclear winter, don’t forget to read Carmac McCarthy’s book, The Road.
You might think that starvation, depression, and madness are too dark for dark days. To my mind, it is the cold that warms me. All things are relative. I may be cold, but I have only to throw another log on the fire and I’m warmer. As for the depression, some give into it; other rise above it. Reading these novels makes you consider what you, the reader, are made of. Do you have what it takes to survive? We have grown soft.