There is frost on the ground every morning now. The north wind blows across the yard and the small birds avoid the unsheltered feeders in my neighbor’s yard and flock to the tall stand of sorghum in my yard that reproduced from spilled and scattered seed of prior years. The last crumbled leaves are glued down in the frost and the squirrels have found refuge in tree hollows, sheds and outbuildings. It is really only a few short weeks before the darkest days of winter.
Another way I have had to evolve the way I deal with winter has to do with that extended darkness. We live in a world that expects optimum performance regardless of environmental factors. Yet environmental factors can make a dramatic difference, especially seasonal and weather related ones. I find it interesting that this year, for the first time in a long time, the encroaching dark has not brought with it a rising tide of gloom, pessimism and depression. In fact, I find I am more energetic than I was in the summer and early fall. Again, the first question I ask is, “Is it me?” Again, the answer is “Yes, it is me”. As the humidity has dropped I felt better and better. I have actually spent more time outside since the fall began and I was busy finishing the harvest and putting the garden to bed. A couple of really cold snaps drove me indoors but the weather has mostly been warmer that last year. So I am actually getting more sun in spite of the shorter days. I am also exercising more than I did in the high humidity, when I could not cool off.
I am hoping this additional exercise will also help me maintain a healthier weight and have still more energy. Another way I am keeping up my spirits in the dark is by rising very early, between four and six in the morning, when after feeding the cats, I go to the back door with my coffee in hand and look at what little I can see of the night sky. It is really beautiful in the clear winter air and helps me achieve a calm feeling to start the day. In the evening I wind down much earlier, in keeping with the body’s natural winter tendency to slow activity and sleep more. I have begun to do my meditation and Reiki to candlelight, somehow more appropriate in this season. It is hardly intense light therapy but it seems to make the longer evenings feel cozy and comfortable rather than gloomy and oppressive. It is not a major change in routine the way my cold acclimation program is and it is working so I am very happy for this simple solution.
People who live in the Arctic have also found ways to fight the negative effects of the long dark. Norwegians who eat a lot of fish in their diet, also supplement with cod liver oil. This once common home remedy “for whatever ails you” fell out of favor due to the pungency of the liquid version spooned down the reluctant throats of children like my mother who recalled it with extreme disgust. At the end of a two week rainy period this last summer I found myself feeling very down even though things were going well. In a light bulb moment I thought I might be deficient in vitamin D after two weeks without sun. To my amazement, after a couple of days of said vitamin I was fine. Just to be sure it was not my imagination I did some research and found vitamin D deficiency is common even in developed countries. I also found it is hard to get enough from over the counter vitamin supplements. So I am following the Norwegian example. Luckily things have evolved from my mother’s day. While I actually don’t mind the liquid version, for those with bad memories it now comes in gel caps which go down far more easily. Unfortunately, I am having to buy two different kinds, as the cats feel the same way about the flavored human brand my mother felt about the unflavored original.