Here in the northeastern part of the United States we are just now settling into the New England winter. In November and December the weather starts to change but the chilly air and the early snowfall is still romanticized with the excitement of the Holidays and blurred by the energy of the solstice. And at that point most of us are still enamored by the newness of the changing seasons.
Once the first of the year comes and goes, the festive decorations get packed up, the fanciful lights are put away, the once-welcomed chill has turned into just plain cold, and daylight seems like an endangered species. It is this time of year that people break out the winter whine. I am not talking about the fermented stuff. I am talking about the winter doldrums, the blahs, the “why do I live here in January” kind of whine.
Many people succumb to this type of seasonal depression. It is after all a very real thing. I, too, see it coming and for years around this time of year would settle in to my own winter whine and wallow into obsessing about when the first signs of spring would come.
A few years back as I was breaking out my own annual winter whine, and settling into the routine of trying to wish the winter away, when I was stopped in my tracks with a thought.
I was thinking about my mom and how she always enthusiastically talks about loving to do the dishes. My whole life she has practically shouted from the roof tops how much she enjoys this often-hated chore. Once I became an adult she let me in on her secret. She told me that she didn’t always love doing dishes. At some point she realized that as a mother and a homemaker you spend a good chunk of your life doing dishes so she decided that she would figure out a way to enjoy that time. And from that point on, set out to tell everyone including herself about her love of doing dishes. To this day she is adamant about being the first to volunteer to clear the table, load the dishwasher and scrub the pans and continues to passionately tell friends and family about her love any chance she gets.
Since digging into a Zentangle practice, I find its philosophies trickling into my everyday life. I have learned that there is beauty to be found almost everywhere. I realized why the dish story came into my thoughts: In the midst of my annual winter whine I was getting caught up in wishing away actual months of my life every year. Winter lasts 3 sometimes 4 months in New England and I was wishing it away every year. Time where there truly is potential for beautiful moments. I thought to myself, if I am going to live here, I am going to have to learn to embrace this frozen time of year. After all one quarter of my life has been lived in winter.
So I took a moment and began to think about some of the things I love about winter in New England. I started with the small things like there are no mosquitos and no humidity. And then moved to things like the smell and warmth of a wood stove, hot tea with friends, cooking a stew all day, the brightness of the sun reflecting on the snow, snuggling in a fuzzy blanket, and a refreshing deep breath in the crisp cold air. Once I decided I was only going to focus on the things I loved about winter, I seemed to discover more. Lately I think about the time that January, February and March offers me. While the rest of the year seems to be filled with endless activity, this chilly time seems to slow things down. There seems to more time to spend wallowing in one Zentangle tile for hours, picking up that project you had been meaning to finish, or finally watching that movie you had been meaning to watch. Even work seems to offer a different pace and time to work on exciting projects. And then I think about the quiet of winter … the priceless quiet. All these amazing wonderful things that had been buried by my whine are now uncovered and fueled my new, found love for winter. Every time I feel myself sinking into some negative thought about winter I just say to myself, “I love winter.” And then force myself to think about one of those things on my list.
So I will not be indulging in any winter whine this winter … this weekend I will be looking forward to a long walk in the brisk air followed by relaxing by the warm fire with some hot tea, and my Zentangle supplies.
I leave you with this quote … that coincidently is inscribed on the wall above my mothers kitchen sink.
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
- Albert Camus