Getting dark earlier certainly cuts into the time that I can spend outdoors roaming the Topsmead landscape; however, there is a perk to December’s reduction of daylight hours. As the afternoon hour of four o’clock approaches and darkness descends, I wander back inside and wonder what to do with myself and the two hours or so until dinner.
So what is the perk? Time—about two hours to snuggle on the couch with a fire in the fireplace, my warm fleece throw, and a good book. Time—to agree with Emily Dickinson when she writes, “There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us Lands away.” I have been immersing myself in Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy, three novels about the King Arthur legend. I read the Trilogy decades ago, and it is sweet to be taken away to those Lands again. When I finish my travels in the Lands of King Arthur, I will have plenty of Frigates calling to me from the books spilling out of my four bookcases and the piles of books scattered on various surfaces around my house: some fiction and some nonfiction, some already read and some waiting to be read.
At this point, I am having serious bookshelf envy as I remember leading visitors through Miss Edith’s Cotswold cottage during the summer docent tour season. I loved pointing out to visitors that there are over 2,000 books in Miss Edith’s cottage. She and Mary Burrell were voracious and eclectic readers as a survey of the book titles reveals. The books are neatly shelved and organized on the bookcases that cover the walls of her living room and in one at the top of the stairs in a cozy, second-floor reading nook. My favorite is the single bookshelf built over the door from the living room into the study. It holds a collection of darling little leather-bound books. What I could do with my books if I had such a luxury of bookshelves!
As daylight grows shorter and darkness grows longer, I relish the partnership between reading and darkness. However, on December 21, when darkness begins to diminish with the arrival of the winter solstice, the first day of winter, and the shortest day of the year, I will, with the utmost reluctance, begin to shorten my reading time.
Until then, cozy up. Find your own way to enjoy this season of darkness. Perhaps you will allow a book to take you “Lands away.” Perhaps you will savor spending the holidays with friends and family. Perhaps as Lucy Burrell did, you will be planning your spring garden, all the while knowing that darkness doesn’t last forever.