I fear the winter. I have nightmares where I wake up and the green leaves of Summer have given way to bare trees and snow; conversely, I also dream of Spring and return of life and color. By mid-Fall the declining light begins to take a toll on my mood and psyche. Then in the depths of true winter it feels like there’s nothing to keep me going except the fact that the days are lengthening and eventually they’ll melt the snow; thaw the ground; the ice on the rivers will break; small buds and sprouts will peak out from the mud and branch tips; the varying hues of grey will be illuminated by what looks similar to Fall foliage at first, but then erupts into vibrant flowers and lush leaves.
It also helps that I know my seasonal deficit in mood and productivity is just that, seasonal. Recognizing it’s not a personal failure, or indication of backsliding into extreme depression and anxiety is helpful in, and of, itself and allows me take steps to alleviate and better manage this seasonal malady. Before identifying an annual upswing in depressive and anxious thinking it just felt like more chaos, more uncertainty, and less hope of ever finding anchor, or compass. But now I can predict it, plan for it, and actively find things to counter it; it’s just another variable to be accounted for.
Yet, I have days where nothing gets done and still endure protracted periods of apathy and lethargy; things that should be joyful become chores and chores become a no less titanic task than Sisyphus eternally rolling a boulder towards the peak of a mountain and equally in vain.
Winter also makes me think and marvel at the ancient cultures around the world of extreme latitudes and how people to this day still manage to live in places in and around the Arctic Circle. I’ve lived in a few places around New England and just a few hours’ distance increases the longevity of the Winter season by a few months. And through my fear I feel a connection to humans long past who braved blizzards without electricity, or any other modern convenience, for they too must have felt the same fear, perhaps more strongly. For most of human history people lived entirely off the land whether hunting and gathering, or agriculture and domestication. Their lives revolved around the seasons and so did their religions, it makes sense such a powerful natural process would be mythologized. Contemporary stories too, from The Long Night in “Game of Thrones” to historical events like The Year Without A Summer, certainly elicit a sense of apocalyptic anxiety in me.
But it also serves to remind me of my humble place in a much larger environment, surrounded by forces that forge, mold, and break us and we’d all be wise to listen to what these forces, our environment, are trying to tell us. Because if all the signs of the seasons herald the coming of Winter you can prepare, or likely perish.