When the weather turns cold, my activity speaks volumes.
OK, I admit that that’s also true when the weather turns warm, or windy, or cloudy with a chance of meatballs. Books and I have had a close relationship since I was two and a half years old – sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, sometimes downright heart wrenching and painful, but always sticking around no matter what. Kind of like Keith Richards, but with better articulation.
But when the skies turn steel-gray, the ground turns white, and the Broncos start retreating from playoff hopes like the British from Dunkirk … well, that’s the ideal time to dive into the thick books and the long series, when there’s nothing around to distract you from the story except the hanging threat of house cleaning.
So naturally, I decided to take another turn at the Wheel. Or rather, a re-turn. Sort of.
Allow me to explain.
If you’re not deeply familiar with epic fantasy, The Wheel of Time is a series that started in 1990 and stretched over 14 volumes and the next couple of decades. The author, Robert Jordan, actually fell ill and died before completing the final books (George R.R. Martin, take warning!) but left sufficiently detailed notes that another author could bring the adventure in for a safe landing.
I was a faithful reader of the Wheel for about the first nine volumes or so. And then – well, life happened. There were jobs to attend to, and family health issues to deal with, and of course the constant dalliance with other books in the gaps between volumes, like that teasing Harry Potter series. (I feel so … unclean.)
Well. You can guess the next step. When you’ve been away from an unfinished series long enough and decide to correct the matter, the first thing you have to do is bring yourself back up to speed. And while I am a dedicated re-reader (old books are old friends, so why not pay a visit?), plunging back through nine thick books to get your mind back to where you left off is a little intimidating, even for me.
I needn’t have worried. Good prose remains good prose, however long it’s been. And there was even a side benefit. It had been long enough that I could come at the book almost like a first-time reader – but with hints of what was to come, as memory excavated bits and pieces of significance, like precious artifacts on an archaeological dig.
Familiar … yet changed.
Yes, this is the perfect time of year for that.
This is the time of the first snow, when familiar landscapes get changed into something new overnight.
This is just barely past the time of masks and costumes, when familiar faces enjoy the fun of a new identity.
This comes as we remake time itself for the fall and winter … as ballots give us the opportunity to remake parts of the world we live in … as lights and decorations start to sneak out into the world and give it a different hue.
Spring has the reputation for rebirth and transformation, but in all honesty, it may be the fall and winter that stand out more – the near transformation, the one where you can still see the outlines, but in a new light and a new way.
Familiar … yet changed.
That’s not a bad perspective for any of us to have. To step back from the well-worn path and the comfortable view – not necessarily to leave it (sometimes the road more traveled is more traveled for a reason) but to take a different angle on it and learn a new lesson. To see more of who we are.
It’s a time for reflection. For examination. Maybe even for decisions, even if it’s just to finish a good book.
Which reminds me. I’ve got a chapter that’s waiting.
After all, it’s the Wheel thing.