I spent my weekend lingering by the living room window, glaring at the crisp blue sky and waiting, disheartened, for the snow to begin. As if of the time I went to bed last night, the forecast called for 5″-8″ inches of heavy snow, visibility of a quarter mile or less, and a really long commute into work. This is what snow means for most adults, who’ve lost the taste for that first sprinkling of powdered white softness on the trees. I begrudgingly drove my required three-and-a-half-hours to work behind the Really Slow Plow Trucks of Doom and arrived a half hour later than usual, despite my precautions. Winter is officially here.
I am inclined to want to complain about it, especially once I reached my destination, all they had down here was rain (bah! Rain! Amateurs.)… but I’m not going to. Because this is a story that everyone knows, that many have lived. Instead I’m going to talk about my absolute favorite winter activity, and that is: reading.
Gosh, what I wouldn’t give to be shooed back home today and told I can curl up in a corner and devour The Fate of the Tearling. When the world you’re living in just doesn’t suffice, there’s nothing like a good book to swallow you up and provide distraction. There’s a mystical quality to books that still astounds me for something that has no special effects, no complicated technology… no bells and whistles at all. The magic of reading truly has to come from a mixture of the writer’s craft and the imagination of the reader.
Back to my morning commute. Have you ever driven in a snowstorm while six vicious velociraptors climb buildings and maul people? It’s difficult to be frustrated by the overly cautious driving of the car in front of you when you’re not certain if the kids are going to manage to get the pin in the lock and shut the vicious thing in the freezer for good. Instead, you slow your butt down to 35mph and listen intently, because this isn’t the bloody movie and one of them might die. Poof! Instantly transported. That is what books do, and it’s my absolute favorite part of them. They transform the world around you, whether you’re curled in your favorite reading chair with a mug of cocoa, or trying to keep your cool when you’d like to be anywhere but in your damn car.
Winter is a particularly wonderful time for such subtle escapism. Up here in New England, within weeks we go from an incredible sunburst of color to grey, grey, grey. It’s cold, it’s damp, it’s yucky. This is the time of year when all us New Englanders (who aren’t ski-enthusiasts) question our life choices and contemplate the beckoning arms of bright, sunny Florida. Of course, if we could migrate like birds, we would, but human lives are not so simple to pack away, and at any rate, we have jobs with distressingly permanent locations. That’s where stories come in.
If you’re like me, you’ll take any form you can get. I personally avoid eBooks because they feel so impersonal and computery, but many people love them. In a pinch, I have a few downloaded. On my lunch breaks, you’ll find my nose stuck in a hard copy tome – my book of the moment is The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. On my long commutes, and even sometimes in the shower or just before bed, I’ll be wrapped up in something. As you may have surmised from the above paragraph, I finished Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton this morning. In need of an old favorite, I’ve got Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire lined up for this afternoon. And why? Simply because these old tales – and I’ve a soft spot for fantasy and convincing science fiction – are transportive. They’re magical.
They let me forget all this bloody snow and how far away home is and how cold my hands are. They let me pretend that I’m in the Tear, or Isla Nublar, or at Hogwarts, where everything is possible and danger is more interesting. They let me be Kelsea Glynn, Dr. Grant, Hermione Granger.
And who, honestly, does not occasionally want to be whisked away to somewhere else? Especially in winter.