I had a recent discussion with my mother about the gloomy days that precede spring here in Kingwood. She complained how they depressed her, and there was a light back and forth regarding the difference between gloomy days in concrete jungles versus the forests of Kingwood. They bring me an unusual level of comfort and calmness that bright, sunny days do not. They bring a feeling of insulation, especially if you live in heavily forested areas. Suddenly the birds become very quiet, the winds pick up and the sound of rustling leaves overpowers every other sound, as if they're beckoning the rain to come.
I cherish these days and look forward to them with almost childish enthusiasm. Most of my winters and springs in Europe were enveloped in nothing but heavy clouds and a grayness that could conquer the most cheery looking house; nevertheless it was during these days you'd find me holed up in a cafe studying or reading some of my favorite writers like Dostoevsky and Wordsworth. It is one of my simplest and most cherished pastimes. The recipe is as follows: a good cup of Fortnum and Mason's Earl Grey tea, my favorite old sweater and some socks, and a book by either Nabokov, Dostoevsky, or Tolstoy (I may be somewhat biased towards Russian authors and composers).
I discovered Dostoevsky in Shakespeare and Co. and fell in love with him when he wrote "But how could you live and have no story to tell?" (White Nights). I have no doubt that this bookshop is one of the most famous in the world, and with good reason. I travelled to Paris for the first time in 2015 and spent two weeks wandering in and out of whatever I felt drew my interest. As a student that time, I blew through my very limited budget within the first five days on Ladurée, cafes (and waiter tips), and Deyrolle's entomologie section. There wasn't much more that I could really do without more funds so I improvised with where I could spend more time. Shakespeare and Co. was really more of an accidental find than a tourist stop for myself, and I had heard of it before, but I fell in love almost as soon as I crossed the threshold. It was here I spent most of my remaining week in a very gloomy and overcast Paris, listening to tourist's chattering, authors reading excerpts of their work to small crowds, watching writers manifest their creations in a place they hoped their work would one day live...and there was I, reading Dostoevsky with the bookshop's owner's cat curled right next to me day in and day out. A hundred years could have passed by outside that bookshop, and Shakespeare and Co. would have remained unchanged, with none the wiser.
"Do Not Be Inhospitable to Strangers, Lest They Be Angels in Disguise". I would read this as I walked through the passage on the second floor every day to reach my room just above the entrance. Here was my heaven, with a tiny loveseat in worn leather. It's been five years, but you might find a love note or two in some of the books I left behind. If you have the chance to visit, don't be afraid to spend good time here. A whole day spent at Shakespeare and Co. would not be wasted.