Travel Books: The Antidote to Winter Hibernation
February 20, 2013
“How long the winter has lasted — like a Mahler symphony, or an hour in the dentist’s chair.”
– Jane Kenyon, “Walking Alone in the Late Winter”
“Winter darkness shuts off the far view. The cold drives you deep into your clothing, muscles you back into your home. Even the mind retreats into itself.”
– Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams
My antidote to late winter restlessness and shutting off the far view is to indulge in armchair travel. These days, with retirement just far enough out of reach to still be in the realm of dreams, I find myself drawn to books by people who have managed semi-long term, but temporary, retreats to remote landscapes.
Clare Cooper Marcus writes about her six-month stay on the island of Iona in Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place. The stated purpose of her retreat was to “reflect on the experience of cancer, healing, and the magic presence of this island,” but it is also like a journal about navigating the transition from professional life to retirement, finding fulfillment in that next phase of life. It seems to say, heed your yearnings, and I recognized myself in Marcus’s yearnings to “stay put, alone and mostly silent, in one place for a long time . . .” — a place close to nature.
Charles Fergus writes about a summer on the west coast of Iceland with his wife and young son in Summer at Little Lava: A Season at the Edge of the World. He, too, uses this time away to heal and come to terms with the tragic death of his mother.
In the ideal world, everyone would get a sabbatical every six or seven years — time to reflect, try new things, and relearn that being human is not only about being productive. My job does not support sabbaticals for staff. For me, reading is the next best thing.