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Michael Barnes

The Last of the Winter Reading Weeks

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Winter Reading Week 2015.

Winter Reading Week 2015.

Regular readers of this column are familiar with the term “Reading Week.”

Winter Reading Week 2015.

Winter Reading Week 2015.

It is derived from the icy “Reading Weekend” dramatized in Iris Murdoch‘s novel “The Book and the Brotherhood.”

11002596_10155179689275316_387888139917873689_nTwice a year, we gather friends at remote spots with armfuls of books and magazines for a feast of independent reading. More happens.

10451896_10155184334325316_6745077210758138033_nFor 22 years, Kip and I have hosted a Winter Reading Week, which started as a Reading Weekend, in various houses at Surfside Beach on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

1514938_10155193753350316_4367748286942187917_nFor 10 years or so, a smaller subset of the big winter group — say, 10 out of the winter 30 — have gathered in cooler climes for the Summer Reading Week.

Winter Reading Week 2015.

Winter Reading Week 2015.

That collaborative party has expanded to two weeks, and, for the past four years, the group has assembled in a cabin among the foothills of Maine in the Belgrade Lake District.

10868113_10155184556815316_5194264165724037668_nThe Summer Reading Week is still on for August. But its older, winter sibling, which takes months of back-and-forth planning, is now history.

10959658_10155184375335316_3093680006202357742_nKip and I sent a version of this message for more than 40 regular guests.

Gang,

For the 22nd year in a row, we had a blast during the Winter Reading Week.
Winter Reading Week 2015.

Winter Reading Week 2015.

As always, we chatted and read, ate and drank, played and walked.

This year, besides launching his inimitable Love Boat dinner, Paul added two hot tubs to the Big Kahuna, quite a luxury.
We welcomed new guests Robert, Barbara, Jamie, Albert, Patrice, Richard and Sam. (Some of whom had been on the invitation list for years.)
10422502_10155197551640316_4469619060794068707_nWe recalled special moments from past Reading Weeks, such as the arrival of three babies who have grown into handsome children.
We remembered the devastation of Hurricane Ike and how our beach house was one of a tiny minority that survived, keeping our tradition alive.
Winter Reading Week 2015.

Winter Reading Week 2015.

We also deeply cherish the memory of our 10th anniversary celebration of our common-law marriage, officiated by Steven, on the waterfront in 2001, the first full Reading Week. 

We said then: “We love our country and our state and expect someday to celebrate our marriage on our native soil.”
10985251_10155200664615316_4789242082501138566_nFive years later, we legally tied the knot before a judge in Toronto, Ontario with some of you in attendance.
Well, what do you know? While we were at the beach quietly celebrating a very happy 24th anniversary, two Austinites became the first Texans legally married in the state.
Coincidence? One of the brides is Suzanne Bryant, our personal lawyer of record for partnership and marriage issues!
Winter Reading Week 2015.

Winter Reading Week 2015.

With some sadness, but frankly, also some relief, we must call this the last Winter Reading Week in this format.

We have exhausted the social energy that sparked it in 1994.
On the upside, this means we can plan to spend more time with all of you dear ones in other circumstances.
Also, we are open to a Winter Reading Week Reunion at some point, under a different organizational structure. Shannon has mentioned creating a reunion page on Facebook, which sounds just about right.
Love to you all,
Michael and Kip