Colleen Winter is the author of The Gatherer series of speculative thrillers. You can find out more about her on her website www.colleenwinter.ca, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.
In a week’s time, I will be hosting the thirteenth annual Literary Feast at my home in Ontario, Canada. The title implies a much grander event than it is though it has become one of my most anticipated events of the year and a time that I cherish.
It is not a coincidence that I host this event in January, which are the darkest days of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere. When I first began hosting ‘The Feast’ as we have come to call it, I specifically chose January to provide my friends with an opportunity to crawl out of their homes and shake off the sleepiness of hibernation for an evening of shared stories and insights.
The premise for The Feast is simple: each person brings something to share with the group that made an impression on them over the last year. It sounds a lot like ‘Show and Tell’ when we were kids and in many ways it is, except this time it’s an opportunity as adults to show something to the group that spoke to them.
Over the years, the variety of pieces that have been brought to the evening has largely encompassed books but also included theatre reviews, recipes, historical family films, graphic novels, and strangely, socks. Each person gets a chance to talk about their choice and why they brought it and discussion follows.
There are many reasons why this event is unique and one of my favourites of the year.
First, it allows me to by-pass small talk, which as an author and a partial introvert, is something I’m not good at and don’t particularly enjoy. The items or excerpts that guests bring are the starting point for what have been some incredible journeys down previously unknown rabbit holes.
The most compelling element, however, has to be that it allows us to get to know each other on a deeper level. In normal day-to-day conversation, it is easy to avoid talking about anything meaningful and this is an easy gateway into understanding what is important to people and at least in a small way, what makes them tick.
One woman, with a love of architecture, reverently presented Building Stories, the graphic novel in a box, by Chris Ware, and allowed us each to borrow what is a masterpiece over the course of the following year. Another guest presented her story as a puppet show, using the sock I mentioned earlier, and her shoe. Other presentations included a book by Yousuf Karsh from a photographer in the group and Breath by James Nestor by a woman who leads forest bathing. Each of their choices reflected who they were and let me know them a little better.
What surprised me, thought I should have expected it, is the unexpected moments when the evening coalesces into something larger than ourselves and each of the contributions effortlessly feeds into an unplanned theme. The last piece supports the first and the ones in the middle support the whole. It feels as if larger forces are at work showing us a connected part of the world that we sometimes forget.
As adults, it is easy to lose ourselves in work or parenthood or caring for those we love. These are all essential parts of life but it is a powerful exercise to pause and take a moment to remember who we are and the things that bring us joy. If you’re feeling ambitious, I recommend creating your own Feast, in whatever format works for you, with a few people who you would like to get to know better. Even without a Feast, I recommend giving yourself permission to remember your passions and take a few moments to remember the joy of what you love.