November is a notoriously hungry month, isn’t it?
Perhaps it is because this is the month when it feels like the greater part of the world is being swallowed by the darkness. A great mouth opens up, Fenrir devouring the sun, and swallows the world piece by piece. Each day we lose a little bit more of the light, until the darkness is deep and cold. This is the dark season coming, the long winter.
But the coming of darkness is not always a bad thing.
As the world is being swallowed, we celebrate by swallowing the world in turn. Festivals of feasting and consumption mark this time of year. We may gather with family and friends, give lavish gifts chosen from gift lists, and cook meals large enough to crack dining room tables in two. We tell stories about days that have passed, and tales of gods old and new. We remember, and we looked forward, toward the promise of spring.
We mark the darker days with bright celebrations, and this is a wonderful thing.
This year, I have decided upon a new kind of celebration. I think that books should be on the dinner table as well.
Not as food for the body, but for the mind. For me, this past year has been a year of upheaval and imbalance. I have been working hard, and constantly, to get my feet back under me. I have written more this year than I have in some time, and my work life has rebounded from last year’s slump with alacrity. It has been a trying year, and I am looking forward to this winter as a time of rest and recovery. I plan to feed the mind like I would feed the body, and rejoice in excess.
You see, so many of us fear the darkness. The winter months can feel cold and long. The darkness in the world around us may feel absolute. But that is not the truth.
Darkness is a time for rest. It is a time for us to turn inward and reflect. We are given the opportunity to forget the outside would and care for ourselves. We cultivate the inner spirit, when the world is dark and cold.
In the spring and summer, when the world is bright, it is easy to fill our days with work and play. We might write for hours upon hours, pushing ourselves to produce. We take on new projects and try new things. We go out with friends and colleagues. We work hard, so hard that sometimes we need to take a vacation to recover.
It has become the norm to try to follow this pattern throughout the rest of the year. With artificial lights to turn on and friends just a call away, the winter is no longer a time for fasting and staying in with family. In this modern world, we work through the winter, pushing ourselves just as hard as we would any other day of the year. We do not give ourselves time to rest in stillness; we just keep going, until we cannot go any more.
This November, I am thinking of ways to rest, and feed the spirit. My first thought is to read.
So I am gathering books to feast upon. My goal is to collect twenty-five books to read over the next few months. I am looking for books of all types—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art. Some I already own, and some I will buy new. They might be short or long. I do not have any type of goal for these books—I might read all of them, or only a few. Their purpose is to feed the spirit.
I will take my book list, and I will read it. Not to work, but to feed the spirit. I want to read books that bring me joy, that delight the senses and excite me. I want to learn new things, and imagine new worlds. I will take this winter as a time of rest. I will read and relax to my heart’s content. I will write with lassitude, and will not commit to new projects. I will fill my heart with stories, and let myself recover from this year. I will curl up in the season’s darkness like a shawl, wrap it around my shoulders and tuck in the corners.
But I will keep a single light. I will hang it over my shoulder like the moon, and let it light the books I read. I will stoke the fires of my curiosity, and keep them burning bright.
Because I know that next year, when the light returns and the world is bright and vibrant again, I will need that curiosity. I will have new stories to write, and ideas to explore—inspired by this winter’s reading—and I am already excited to see where they will take me.