indulge in some quiet time

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let the heart
embracing the long winter nights
by Yee-Fan Sun |
1 2

Scotland in December is a dark, dark place. On the days when it isn't completely obscured by clouds, the sun doesn't bother to peek out its head until after 8:30 in the morning; by 3 in the afternoon, night's already starting to descend. No one who has any sense feels much inclination to venture into the great outdoors, which is gray, and damp, and all around dreary. The weather's abysmal; the nights are endless. And secretly: I kind of like it.

Yes, yes -- like everyone else, I whine about the winter. I complain about the cold fingers and the even colder toes; I moan about my perpetual runny nose, and the fact that the lack of sunlight is turning my skin a ghastly pasty-white. I groan when the morning weather report forecasts a day of frigid temperatures or, worse yet, steady rain. But the truth is, I spent six years living in the desert southwestern US, where the sun shone nearly every day of the year and the winter climate was as perfect as weather can be. And let me tell you: all that blue sky and sunshine? Bor-ing. I grew up in Boston, after all, and as every New Englander knows, bellyaching about the nasty weather is a big part of the fun of winter.

Besides, the thing is, I'm not exactly an outdoors type anyway. My favorite things are home-y things, as anyone who knows me is well aware. I love cooking and painting, reading and watching DVDs, listening to music and scribbling in my journal, snuggling with the boy and entertaining friends chez nous. But when I choose to engage in my beloved indoor activities on a gorgeous sunny day, I always feel a little like I'm not taking proper advantage of the weather. Good weather, in a way, just makes me feel guilty.

So there's a lot to be said for this time of year, when the short days and less-than-welcoming outdoors mean that I actually have a perfectly legitimate excuse for indulging my hermit ways.

For one thing, these long winter nights offer a great opportunity to catch up on all the books I've been stockpiling for months and haven't -- until now -- given myself the time to sit down and read. In the past few weeks, I've cried my way through The Kite Runner, a lovely weeper of a novel that centers around a young Afghan boy and his relationships with his cold and distant father, his adoring servant/best friend, and his complicated, turbulent home country. I've sunk into the surreal world of Haruki Murakami's latest, Kafka on the Shore, a wonderfully strange story that follows two loners, a runaway Tokyo teen trying to figure out the mystery of his long-lost mother and sister, and a mentally-challenged old man who can talk to cats in their native tongue. I've also picked up and put down and then picked up again Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a tale of two rival magicians in 19th century England that, for all its literary cleverness and enchanting fairies and spells, I'm somehow having a hard time getting into. (I'm trying to force my way through it nonetheless, perhaps out of some misguided notion that it seems smart and must therefore be good for me.) As I hunker down into my blanket cocoon on my deep, comfy sofa with novel in hand, my nose is cold, my body toasty, and my inner bookworm is altogether happy indeed.

shuffle over this way kids!

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