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  • Shana Ritter

As winter begins…


I have to confess that I love the long, lingering dusks of early winter. The way the lengthening darkness makes the short spurts of brightness in my so often gray Midwest more brilliant. Just as my most of my friends lament the cold and shifting season, I take delight in the stack of wood, a thick soup simmering on the stove, the winter squash in the blue bowl on my yellow counter. The winter months offer a kind of permission to move slowly, to get lost in a book, to spend long hours scribbling. Because I have a warm, comfortable home this season provides a refuge, and in these times, I take solace where I can and offer it as I am able.

It’s been months and months since I finished In the Time of Leaving and gave it over to readers. Glad as I am to have completed the novel, there are times I am homesick for that world. For the five years I wrote and researched the book I had a second home with Chava, Sarah and Esther. Now, their voices are whispers, I catch just a hint of their conversations and their thoughts. I miss their company. Today walking down the hill by my house, muddy with the melting of early snow I couldn’t help but think of them starting their journey in the Spring. As the days grew longer, the distance from their home grew greater.

In the Time of Leaving is about exile and resilience. Chava and Sarah gave up their daily joys and chores, comforts and familiarity in order to ensure their survival. As I’ve visited book clubs or given presentations at community groups and synagogues, people have shared their stories with me. As we move toward a new year, a new decade, I can’t help but think of all the families, all the children that must leave their homes each day, all the stories we don’t know.

As the longest night of the year approaches, I hope you find light, and warmth wherever you call home.

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