By Jessica Reidmueller
As winter deepens and snow and ice threaten my drive to work, I recall the nights hoping that snowfall would cancel school. My family would sit around the radio listening as the winter weather rolled in. We slept easy when snowflakes fell before bed knowing the ground would be blanketed in white by the morning. If our dreams came true, we would awake early, again gathering around the radio listening for closings. Even as they were announced we were planning our day off, playing.
This quiet time of winter is also good for reading. There is no other season more literary than winter. Curled up in a blanket, surrounded by a few books pulled down from the shelf, and drinking a cup of hot tea is the best way to spend a dreary winter’s night. And winter has long been the season to inspire some of the best writing. Here are some of my favorite winter poems, books and music.
“Frost at Midnight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Coleridge’s reflects on the silence of his surroundings during a winter’s night. He also speaks to his sleeping infant son.
“Eve of St. Agnes” by John Keats
The story of two young lovers thwarted by their feuding families. Sound familiar? This story is much shorter and more lyrical than Shakespeare’s, and less bloody come to think of it.
“Journey of the Magi” by T.S. Eliot
One of the Three Wise Men recalls in old age the journey to the manger. An interesting take on the experience of witnessing the Lord’s birth. “Were we led all that way/for Birth or Death?”
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost
The quintessential American poet describes a momentary pause in his journey to watch snow descend upon the woods. His awe at the beauty of this sight is interrupted by his logical-thinking horse, and he continues on his way.
“Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare
My favorite Shakespeare play, it is one of the original romantic-comedies. Twelfth Night occurs on Jan. 6 and marks the end of the celebration of the Christmas season as well as the day the Three Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem. A holdover into post-Reformation England, festivities during the 12 days between Christmas and Twelfth Night were generally marked by merriment and misrule, perhaps explaining where the name “Twelfth Night” originates.
“Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke
A story about magicians and fairies in early nineteenth-century England. More Jane Austen than J.K. Rowling. Not so much a winter-themed book, but as it weighs-in at around 800 pages, what better time to read it than the season of long nights?
A story about the resiliency of one New England family of women through hardships, joys, woes and triumphs.
“If On a Winter’s Night” by Sting
A mix of classical, folk and Celtic music that sounds like the lonely days of winter. Many of the songs are Christmas-haunted but not Christmas-focused making this an album for the entire season. Beautiful and haunting.
“Noel” by Josh Groban
I know, I know. This is obviously a Christmas CD.
“9” and “O” by Damien Rice
In the vein of Ray LaMontaigne and David Gray, Damien Rice is a singer-songwriter with poetic lyrics, and an acoustic guitar. But where the formers’ music is upbeat, if not downright celebratory at times, Rice’s music is saturated with melancholy.
In this time when we are rushing from the safety and warmth of work or home to the safety and warmth of our cars, to stop and experience the silence and loneliness of winter is refreshing. One deep breath of cold air with the eyes closed can bring so much clarity to a day. Here’s to hoping you appreciate the season as much as I do.