Part of the allure of winter is it’s invitation for us to travel inwards. We are granted precious moments of stillness, and something about a fresh blanket of snow makes it even more enticing to savor those moments. I find that going deep with a good book helps me to prioritize finding and protecting these slow winter moments. This winter I’ve come across some great new reads, and have also revisited some old favorites.
One of these is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard’s best-known work. Her philosophical memoir takes a meandering look at a year spent deep in the woods of the Blue Ridge Valley in Virginia. With rich language, Dillard explores the inherent dualities that she perceives throughout the natural world, and the largeness of all that is small. This book is profoundly quiet making it a great read for a snow day, when you have the time and mental space to digest some deep insights while hunkered down under warm blankets.
Another old favorite is Jim Harrison’s novel The Summer He Didn’t Die. The narrative delves into the life of a Michigan Indian character named Brown Dog who’s a typical antihero: hacking out a life for himself and a couple of rapscallion kids, and getting into no small amount of trouble in the process. It’s laugh-out-loud funny–a nice break from the slower, pensive works I tend towards this season.
Recent discoveries include Helen Macdonald’s recent memoir, H is for Hawk, which details the intimate story of a woman learning to train a goshawk. The process and the relationship she forms with the bird gradually affords the woman the introspection needed to process grief from the loss of her father. This book is beautifully written, and draws the reader deep into the incredible world of falconry. For me, winter is the season to make peace, and come to terms with my own reality–so this one was very fitting in that regard.
Another new noteworthy wintry read is The Heart of Everything That Is by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. I’ve been consumed by an interest in the history and customs of the Native Americans since childhood. This book is an in-depth chronicle of the Sioux warrior chief Red Cloud, written just after the discovery of a long-lost autobiography. For me, this is a total page-turner which makes it easier to convince myself to steal that indulgent bookish time away from my otherwise hectic day, for a quick 15 minutes or a couple of hours. Though I must admit that reading this book by the fireplace with a hot toddy in hand, it’s hard to truly fathom the way of life of the Plains Tribes.
These are four books Casey Dzierlenga keeps stacked on her Lorca Side Table, when she’s done applying the last coat of wood wax. You can see more of her work on the Dzierlenga F+U site.