Monday, December 24, 2012

Winter Reading List: December, 2012.

It's dark here, it's dark here because it's always dark here. At the restaurant on the 30th floor, we looked out the windows. Richard said, “wow, it's dark, already.” “Yes,” I said. I looked at my watch. Quarter to five. “The solstice is still five weeks away,” Richard said. This conversation was already five weeks ago, now. “Yeah,” I said. “It's going to take another ten weeks to get back to where we are now.” “Amazing,” he said. “Amazing,” I echoed.

It's dark here, it's dark here because it's always dark here. In my mind it's wintertime here because it's always wintertime here. No, this is not the contagious case of global cooling that they pitched to us back in the 70s. They pitched a bunch of nonsense to us in the 70s. It's not cold here, it's cool, but never cold. It's raining here, it's raining here because it's always raining here. The streets are wet, the black of wet asphalt makes mirrors. The depths of reflection are the preeminently gray skies, the grayest of clouds that are ceiling of Portland, Oregon.

Once, many years ago, I wandered through the city with a mood of polite optimism. Those days are sadly gone, gone the way of the cynic. On this particular day, I calculated that the days were lengthening by a noticeable amount. I realized on the walk between the canyons of highrises that once the winter solstice passes, winter is essentially over.

I feel differently now. In the rain, striding over the sidewalks of town, the winter and the rain are never going to end. It's going to be such a gradual change, unnoticed when seen day to day. Come May, flowers on trees, and dull, dry asphalt. But until then, it's dark here, it's raining here, and it's wintertime here, because that's the way it is, always has been, perhaps always will be.

We retreat indoors. Out of the rain. Out of fray. Some inside activities become the neurotic niggling of creation: art and music and needle point. Other activities fall into the glass, poured from taps while the TVs above the bar are dancing with stars, zombie soup operas and automobile fast food ads. Some inside activities are dominoes, old LPs, 60 watt light bulbs. Some activities happen in the bedroom, and if athletic those activities spill out into the hall all the way to the kitchen and back again. And subsequently those activities produce the stir-crazy activities of teething infants.

And sometime in the silence of the falling rain at night, clearheaded and still, cracking a book produces yet another indoor activity. One sentence after another, one book, then the next. Walking through the short days and long nights, rain filling, child rearing LPs skipping wintertime Portland, Oregon, when is there time to crack a book? The date changes once every 24 hours, but the days feel significantly shorter than that.

What about it? Reading the winter away. Does the human intellect rest, like the wintertime soil, and flourish again in the spring? Can we nourish ourselves all winter with books and come out in the warmer seasons in bloom? How can we prevent ourselves and our neighbors from falling into the anesthetization of gadgets, TV and depression? Under the lamps of hearths and desks and bedsides, over the rims of reading glasses and tea cups, the tactile sounds of flipping pages and pulp and ink, we are reading. Talk about power.

This winter, I intend to read books that are yet to be published. Of those that are in print I chose these:

What Am I Doing Here Bruce Chatwin
Under the Ribs of Death John Marlyn
Brazil Jesse Lee Kercheval
One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest Ken Kesley

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