By Jana Seitz
I’ve been handed 18 chances while living in the Northeast to learn that the funk I fall into in winter is bigger than I am, but I’ve blown it every year. As in love and labor, one forgets the pain and jumps right in to do it again.
I was born in a hot sunny climate, so didn’t have to cultivate survival skills for January, February, March, and sometimes April. I am missing the circadian rhythm required to weather winter, skipping a beat and putting myself in a minor key. I hibernate at first, but only out of post-Christmas exhaustion, a survival of the fattest approach that doesn’t sustain me for three months. Next, I revel in doing indoor tasks long on my list. Then begins the downward spiral.
I take to writing “JOY” on the tender whites of my arms in hopes that a glimpse of it will trigger the Pavlovian response of a smile, thereby triggering my missing joy, a God-given gift horse I seem to have looked in the mouth and caused to flee the stable. But “JOY” fades unless its continually refreshed. I do so with various colored Sharpies, considering a tattoo. That’s when I realize it’s happening again. I remember I am helpless in pulling out of the winter blues by staying warm and inside.
I’ve studied the various survival skills of the indigenous peoples of Westchester, and hibernation seems to be the most common. People just disappear. Poof. Ours is a ghost town for months. The wise curl up like bears in a cave, reading in front of a roaring fire that mimics the sun. Others busy themselves with ski trips, paddle tennis, and charity events. Some cook, others rearrange furniture. Some drink.
Cultures have been dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder much longer than ours has been reducing it to a pithy acronym. The seasons are set up with clear patterns, giving mankind time to prepare and evolve:
Spring: Life begins.
Summer: Life ripens.
Fall: Life is harvested.
Winter: Life dies to make way for new life.
Naturally, we as a species may get a little down come winter, given all that darkness and death. In my native Louisiana, we have a handy antidote called Mardi Gras, a month-long party which propels us through the doldrums of winter like a charm. My body is accustomed to this survival method, hurling music and booze at the blues to banish them.
My first winter here I was naively shocked to discover no one celebrating Mardi Gras. A local eatery claimed to, but had no live music and just the usual suspects at the bar. I waited until St. Patrick’s Day, thinking “Ah, yes, THAT must be the antidote for the people.” But again was shocked to find it was just another school night. I reckon people here are just tougher than in the South, choosing to go it alone rather than seek solace in mass revelry. But I still roam around in search of a campfire to share.
I think I’ve got it licked this year with a new formula: Twenty minutes under a sun therapy lamp every morning, 5,000 units of Vitamin D daily, and a whopping dose of the outdoors. I have to continually fight the power of the heated home to suck me in and pin me down (Nursing Home Syndrome). I’ve made it through unscathed thus far. I realized the other day that I felt better than I had in months and wondered why. No endorphins flooding my system from exercise. Hadn’t had a drink all week. No good news from the homeland. What was this familiar feeling of peace and wellbeing? Then it dawned on me: DAYLIGHT! Time for the 6:30 news, and the sun’s still here. I’d made it to Daylight Savings Time…again.
Who cares that it’s dark when I wake up? I’m a beast before coffee, light or dark. But the return of The Golden Hour made everything all right again.
What a difference a day makes.
A winter hike with the Appalachian Mountain Club
The author snowshoeing at Apawamis
Canopus Lake from the top of the trail
Forging ahead at Fahnestock State Park
BOX – NEEDS OUTDOORSY RULE (woodsy ?)
Carmel, NY (45 miles from Rye)
Snowshoe on the Appalachian Trail, cross-country ski around Canopus Lake. Rental equipment and café onsite. Incredibly beautiful and so easy. Or snowshoe Rye Town Park, Edith Read Wildlife Sanctuary or local golf courses (especially pretty by moonlight.)
Warwick, NY (50 miles from Rye)
Favorite solo weekday ski trip. Rental equipment and café.
Patterson, NY (40 miles away)
Small, but a fine replacement for the treadmill.
Millbrook, NY (70 miles from Rye)
Shooting instruction for all levels. Beginners welcome. Gear provided. Café and great shopping for Orvis gear on site.
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