I’m not long returned from the Brooklyn Book Festival where the weather was beautifully warm and I had to pace about wearing shorts. Last weekend I travelled to the Victoria Writers Festival and Wordstock, the Portland writers festival, and tonight have just arrived home from the launch of the Vancouver Writers Fest.
I remember all four recent festivals by the weather and conversations. In New York I had to turn on the air conditioner. In Portland I had to turn on the heater and yesterday night I could not sleep because it was so windy here in Vancouver.
I love the fall season in Vancouver and pay close attention to the wind and rain. It signals for me the start of my winter reading rituals. The weather closing in, the sky turning grey means it’s time to turn in to the page.
All year I turn to the page, but in winter I embrace the page amid additional attention to physical comfort.
To establish any ritual it’s necessary to repeat it. It’s not a ritual if you only ever do it once. My reading rituals are particularly employed and important when it’s raining. As it’s regularly raining in Vancouver, I am committed.
Comfort is vital. I adopted two couches from a generous couch shedder because I deemed we needed a couch-per-reading-person (in this case two). I have invested in four hot water bottles because I deemed we needed two per person. I bought my son the softest blanket in the world which I subsequently commandeered and he has yet to raise a loud protest since he has disappeared into the vortex of video gaming. Quilts are very important in our apartment, they are dragged up and down stairs and sometimes found under the kitchen table and are thus umbilically connected to winter reading rituals. Pillows and cushions are critical.
Liquids. Liquid comfort matters during a winter reading ritual. In this case: teapot, teacups, milk jug, glass of hot port have proved trojan company. For smaller participants I admit to providing endless bags of chips and token chopped apples.
Finally I have found fuzzy or warm socks a most important part of my winter reading ritual. If my feet are cold or itchy it’s very distracting to my reading.
Once comfort is established and the weather has been noted, this liberates my brain and reading begins.
A stack of books is always within arms reach of the couch because I practice inter-reading. I might wish to digest a paragraph by reading a different work after it, or I might just dig in for the long haul with the same text.
Walks are taken only to refill hot water bottles or the teapot. Generally the plan is not to get up. Naps are sometimes taken at the book, but this isn’t encouraged. The teapot is the weapon against slumber. The curtains are always open, darkness is welcome but the curtains stay open because the weather doing its thing outside is a pleasing visual carnival.
Titles vary, but I would not necessarily reread Madame Bovary in winter. She is usually reserved for the wooden chair on Grandma’s deck.