Welcoming Winter

Hello darkness, my old friend

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Around the winter solstice, those of us who live in Cascadia have an obligation to befriend the darkness. Daylight is in excruciatingly short supply and entire days pass in a twilight that offers no promise of “midday sun.”

We rise in the darkness and greet the thin, wavering light with something akin to clutching at straws. At noon, it looks like dusk. We go about our half-lit business and before we know it, another long evening has come to call. By 4pm, the vampires are out and the brew-pubs are busy.

It’s easy to understand how the darkness gets to people. It’s all-pervasive. Often the rain accompanies the gloom and we find ourselves in the damp and the dark.

Thus it is imperative to turn the tables and embrace the darkness. The short days mean long nights—conducive to working on those lingering projects, finishing that novel (reading one or writing one), making music with your comrades, exploring inner space. Sharing quality time with those all-important people that you never seem to have enough time with. Cooking and enjoying long, luscious dinners prepared with intention and camaraderie.

And there’s lots of stimulation on the streets of the City of Subdued Excitement. Local musicians are everywhere. The crowds at restaurants and pubs always include people that you know and haven’t seen for awhile—some of them might even buy you food. Take advantage of the monthly Art Walks, as art is great for illumination. And there are lots of great independent films (thank god for the Pickford).

Of course, some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition with exactly the right acronym: SAD. These folks are subject to serious depression during these dark months. Remedies include light therapy, ion generators and perhaps, vitamin D supplements.

Increasingly, another way to manage SAD has gained acceptance: Exercise. You can go the gym or play some racquetball at the Y. And according to the Mayo Clinic, getting outside—especially in the morning—is a great way to combat SAD.

So, go for a walk. Head up to the mountains when you can and play in the snow (even on the gloomiest days, the snow is, well, white). Or seek out places where there is a lot of sky, like the beach or the Skagit Flats. Spend a weekend in the San Juan Islands. Thanks to the rain shadow of the Olympics, it is not uncommon to find sunshine there when the mainland is wrapped in clouds like a Christo installation. (Hawaii works, too.)

One especially fine way to lose the blues is to get out on the water itself. True fact: The world looks brighter from a kayak. The combination of water and sky offers a lot of reflectivity, as well as time for reflection.

Like so much about living in the Pacific Northwest, the darkness is part of a tradeoff. So light a candle, stoke up the fire, and put on a Chet Baker CD. Think about those incredibly long and languid summer days to come. Plan future adventures. Beginning Saturday, December 21, every day is getting longer.

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