Coziness and Comfort in Story – A Personal Reflection

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This is a more personal and introspective entry, probably a bit rambling and borderline stream of consciousness. I would like to spend a few minutes exploring my conception of the coziness and comfort that I find in books. I want to think back to all the books I’ve read from my childhood up to now and examine what exactly I find cozy and comforting and why.

Photo by Hannah Domsic on Unsplash

“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.”
 – Langston Hughes

I find rain comforting, the sound of rain falling, the grayness of the sky, the chillness in the air, and sometimes the brisk wind that picks up when a front comes in. It feels magical as well. It makes me think of being in a forest during a rain. In a safe little house, perhaps in a tree. There’s something at times a bit reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh. The storm and rain is the only thing really threatening, and even then, it won’t really hurt you. And indoors, in your cozy little house in the hollow of a tree, there’s a warm and welcoming fire, a hot cup of tea, books, and maybe even the company of a few close friends. You can look out the window and see the falling rain, hear it, feel the rumble of the thunder, and fully enjoy it, all while being tucked away inside, safe and secure and warm.

I also have another picture in my head of the comfort of rain. It’s in a nursery I once visited, inside a greenhouse where all the herbs are being kept. Outside are pathways of dirt, and several large trees whose great branches and blankets of leaves provide shelter. And once again there is the peace that comes from experiencing the rain, seeing it fully, while still being kept safe from the storm.

When I first read The Hobbit, it was a rainy day. I sat on our couch curled up with the book, enjoying the rain while being sheltered from it, and lost in an adventure in another world. The sound of falling rain, especially when it hits the leaves or the roof of a house or the puddles on the ground, is calming. And the trickling of little streams that grow on the streets and flow into the drains is reminiscent of the gurgling little streams one might find in the countryside. 

Something about the rain – the sound, the tint of the sky, the feel in the air – makes me feel so full of life, as if I’d awakened from a slumber and fully become myself, aware of the magic within myself and the wonder in the world around me. 

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I’ve also always been taken with woodlands. Woodlands and green rolling hills and gentle streams and flowing rivers. The first thing I can remember that made me in love with them was a map of The Land of Grundo from Teddy Ruxpin. In fact, when I think about it, Teddy Ruxpin was what set me off into the world of fantasy. I would put the cassette tapes in my Teddy Ruxpin doll and he would read the stories as I paged through the books. I had completely forgotten about it! But it was without a doubt the first bit of wonder planted in my life that I can remember. Wow, how much do I owe to Teddy Ruxpin! Anyhow, the map was enchanting. There were woods I really wanted to explore. I dreamed of going to all those places.

When I went to the park as a preschooler, the playground was in a part surrounded by trees. It was a magical place. When I was there, I felt as though everything in my imagination was real. I was in another world, the lines of this reality and the enchanted world were blurred. The woods at the park must have been the same as the woods on the map. And so even at a young age, my imagination became enmagicked, and I seemed to live in two worlds at once.

Woods. Trees. They were always alive to me. Full of wonder and magic and meaning. I went to elementary school at a small church off an avenue which is lined with towering pines (I believe they were planted as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal workforce project). And the playground at my school was immersed in the pines as well. I have always loved the way the sunlight filters through the mass of branches and leaves. It’s never completely bright, giving you the illusion of being hidden away, of being in a sacred place that not everyone could enter.

I also fell in love with the ring of trees I found at the university in Nottingham. I enjoyed the peacefulness of sitting there, protected by them, accompanied by them.

The University of Nottingham

And now, there are some trails nearby my house where large trees grow and give their shade. I tell my boys that the large one around the bend, with its great branches propped up with support, is where the fairies gather on full moon nights.

“Oh, to be in England now that April’s there.” – Robert Browning

The landscape of England has always been cozy to me. And I’ve always been drawn to it. I tell people that God took the green grass and fog and rolling hills of England and formed me from it. When I went to England, my spirit felt like it was coming home. There was something familiar and welcoming about the air there. I didn’t care at all for London, but I love the smaller towns and villages and most of all, the landscape.

Beatrix Potter’s beloved illustrations

There is so much beauty there it hurts my heart to recall it. You can almost feel a mix of magic and comfort when you walk across the land. A feeling that you are journeying back into an enchanted world. But not a scary world. A beautiful world of magic and serenity and welcome. As if at any minute you should find yourself in the Hundred Acre Woods or strolling up to Toad Hall, walking past Mr. MacGregor’s Garden or staring at a lamppost in a snowy wood. It is where all of the beautiful, comforting, and enchanting longings of childhood somehow become real. 

Badger’s House in The Wind and the Willows

And what do I love about any of those books? Those English childhood classics? I think it’s the picture not only of a world before this busy age, but the world as it should have been, even in those times. Where life is carefree and innocent and friendly and comforting and full of adventure and magic and wonder. They offer a glimpse of what seems to be heaven. Of truth, beauty, and goodness. Hope and peace. In the same way that the Shire does. Oh Tolkien was so gifted in his ability to bring the Shire to life. He captured everything so perfectly that appeals to me about rural England. And I feel the movies did a wonderful job of that too. And the music! Most certainly the music!

Photo by Jeff Finley on Unsplash

There is something about picking up The Hobbit or the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring that feels like a homecoming. Like a home in the evening after a day’s travel, with a fire lit, tea waiting, and a close friend at the door. And maybe that is what coziness is to me. The thing that you can return to at the end of the day that restores your soul. Whatever it may be for you. It’s the place where you can let your guard down and not just relax, but be truly at peace, truly happy and overjoyed. And for me that is rain and woods and a hobbit hole. Or Mr. Badger’s house, or Pooh Corner. 

I think every person needs a place like that. I think every child needs a story like that. Where no matter what we face, at the end of the day there is peace and restoration, warmth and welcome. Especially if it is not something they have at home. Story itself is that welcome, that refuge.

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