Winter has well and truly arrived. The garden has had its fill of rejuvenating rain. Shrubs no longer look as dull and weary as they did a few weeks ago. It may be very cold in Melbourne but at home some of our sun-loving orchids are primed and ready for spring. They have already sent forth long strong spikes with buds ready for another long flowering season. Our Grevileas are covered in little brown leaf-like miniature flowers full of potential for turning into magnificent bird-attracting lantern-like blooms later in the year. The young Japanese Maple has branches heavily pregnant with next season’s beautiful leaves.
Thinking about spring helps me to appreciate winter. Thinking about winter helps me to enjoy spring.
I like the seasons but I’m no fan of the cold. It’s difficult to resist the desire to become deciduous and shut down and conserve energy – but life does go on, and its regular patterns keep me active and engaged. Reading is one of those activities.
I do a lot of reading throughout the year but I particularly enjoy reading during the winter season. It feels different, especially on cold grey days. I read differently in winter. Not just any old novel. I use winter to focus on meaty stuff. Books I can ponder over. Books with depth that allow me to look out the window from time to time, and think about a phrase or a word or an idea. In winter, reading more naturally takes on the guise of meditation. I have a queue of books that I put aside for winter reading. It’s an old habbit from UK days.
At the moment I’m reading a beautifully written book about walks and walking. Its called The Old Ways – a journey on foot and it follows ‘the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of an ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British isles and beyond’. A friend gave me the book because of my interest in nature and the concept of pilgrimage. “Here, he said. Read this, I think you will enjoy it”. And I am enjoying it. It’s a poetic investigation into what it means to follow a path – even ones that are no longer visible. Its an exercise in observation and silence, and faith.
One of the recommendations reads: ‘(Robert) Macfarlane’s writing soars. Read this and it will be impossible to take an unremarkable walk again’.
After a nice walk along a coastal path on Monday, I found myself meditating on the idea of the people of faith being a people Of The Way – alone and together. Following a path that is simultaneously ancient and modern, visible and invisible. If you are looking for a book for this winter, this one could be worth a read.