Medicine for Winter

Early in December everything changed. The brown and gold world, where the earth was soft and the air was mild, seemed to vanish overnight.

A knife-like wind moved through every crevice of the house. The leaves dropped overnight in a chilly rain. The wind rose with wintry roar. Every year it sounds new, although I soon recognize it’s ancient voice.

Then, the first snow. I took this lightly, assuming it would melt away, and didn’t shovel or salt. Two weeks later and my walk is still icy!

I love the white winter, and miss it here in ‘the South’ (go ahead and laugh, true Southerners), for a snow that sticks around and paints the ground white is unusual even at midwinter. But here we are, before Christmas and the ground is white and the moon is waxing and so bright that you can drive with your lights off and the chill is biting sharp when I take the dogs out but the sky is so crisp and beautiful that I’d gladly shiver a while and drink it in.

However, along with the (seemingly) sudden decent into winter comes another phenomenon of the shorter days, one less romantic: the SAD effect.

That first weekend in December, awash in competing holiday events, I was able to compare notes with so many friends who had just experienced a week of difficult gloom: a strong pull to eat and sleep, lack of desire to create or follow through, and even painful thoughts of self loathing and despair.

So pervasive was this trend that I immediately released all the other reasons for my own depression. It’s the shortening days! the lengthening nights, the withering cold, calling our animal bones to curl up and sleeeeeep, doze away the wintry night living off of our stored fat. or to make some, if we need more!

One artist friend sits under a bright lamp every morning for 30 minutes. Another swears by the gym. Here, we consume increasing amounts of coffee. And build a cheering fire as darkness falls in mid afternoon. And gather friends around the hearth to share the rituals of the season.

Last night I opened the first jar of tomato sauce, canned in the sweat of summer when the sunshine was still pouring into the fruit of the garden faster than I could eat it. The tangy red taste was warm and delicious, and that summer sun brought warmth to my table on a winter’s eve.

It’s magic!

2 thoughts on “Medicine for Winter”

  1. Um really late comment I know but as we’re now getting well into our first real winter. On the coast we’d only get a handful of times a year that it dropped below freezing at night.

    I’ve seen a lot of people have the same problems. It’s strange, I always find myself waking up.
    Summer here in Australia is when I shut down, when I’m useless all the time. I end up with such brain melt. I can’t think, I can’t draw, I can’t cook. Nothing happens.
    Having moved somewhere where summers are shorter I noticed a great difference in how much I could get done.

    I don’t seem to be sleeping more. I am eating more but I’m also getting out of the house more too. I can go out at any time while the sun is up and not get burnt or pass out from heatstroke.

    We’ve enjoyed watching the leaves change and seeing what of the stuff we’ve planted can survive the frosts. We’ve built fires and collected haw berries and rosehips and have brought out the frozen and dried fruit from the summer. We’ve loved living somewhere where we can pick apples off the tree and go to a berry farm in summer.

    It seems much easier to experience the changing of the seasons and be in tune with that in a place where we have distinct seasons.
    It will be interesting to see if we stay like this or if we start a downswing in winter too once we’re settled.
    Though I will never be happy to visit Penrith in the summer with the air so thick you can’t breath. ugh.

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