To life . . . and its uncomplicated joys

By Diane Davis, Associated Press

January is a time to sigh. No holiday gift-giving pressure. No greeting cards to get into the mail. No office parties to fret over.

Sure, you could move on to tackling your New Year’s diet, or start your spring cleaning early by facing down that lump of coats on the floor of the front hall closet, or even spend some time mastering the new MP3 player you found under the tree.

But first, breathe. No big goals, no major challenges.

These cold, bright days and long, dark nights offer a calm quiet like no other time of year. Stop. Enjoy it. Here’s how:

Go to bed early. Even if the days are getting longer, darkness still descends in the evening’s early hours. Embrace it. Turn off the TV and turn down the heat. Silence the phone, and cell phone, too. Tune your clock radio to a classical music station.

Crawl under that big down comforter and feel the sheets change from icy cold to cozy warm. Drift off to sleep, ready to rise early with the pale winter sun and greet whatever the next day brings.

Read a classic novel. Most any one will do: Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, the Bronte sisters, “The Great Gatsby.” The slower, more deliberate pace of faraway times suits winter’s chill.

And somehow, no matter how cold it is outside, the winters centuries ago always seem colder (recall the carriages traveling through the snow from a dinner party in “Emma”). So bring an afghan and hot pot of Earl Grey tea along with your book to your favorite reading chair. Dive in.

Bake bread. Yes, it can take all afternoon. Yes, it’s a little intimidating. But what a way to pass a long, cold Sunday. Hunker down and prepare to follow the directions carefully, getting the yeast temperature just right, and kneading the dough just so.

Try a traditional recipe that requires your hands, or just use the one that came with your electric mixer. The magic moment when you peek into your mixing bowl to find that the hard fist of flour and water has bloomed into an air-filled puff of almost-bread will be no less sweet. And the moment when it emerges from the oven a few hours later will be even better.

Write something. Not on the computer. Grab one of the dozens of blank journals for sale in any book store, or maybe some creamy white sheets of heavy bond paper. Use a nice pen — black ink, please. Write a letter to your college best friend. Write down something funny you saw on your way to work today. Write a poem, rhyming not required. You may be surprised at what flows from your pen — life is sometimes more interesting when committed to paper.

Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.


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