Every year, when we turn back the clock, I go into a funk. Reduced hours of light affect me and cosequently, affect all who must live with me. Given that these dark days extend to months, I feel more than a little sorry for those who are treated to my cranky, disagreeable moods. Even I cannot stand myself at times. So I’ve learned to prepare for what is ahead. After all, if what cannot be avoided must be endured, I can at the very least make the experience pleasantly bearable. One day at a time.
Ideally, one would benefit from a winter-long sojourn to warm, sunny locales. But that, alas, is not my lot. I make do with what is at hand and what is possible. Mind you, I’m well aware that winter can have a very severe, debilitating effect on certain people. Medical intervention is necessary. Seasonal Affective Disorder is nothing to trivialize. For my purpose however, the actions I mention here suit me well.
As we move indoors for the next five months or so, I get started on my ‘Keep Myself Sane’ plan. Not surprisingly, I bring the garden indoors. I’m not just talking house plants. Two weeks ago, I started paperwhites in a big way. Almost every room has been graced with them. At this time, they are blooming charmingly and giving me a sense of the same joy that I experience in spring. Gradually, amaryllis will begin to bloom and later in January, the bulbs that had been occupying some prime real estate in the refrigerator will be forced. Thus, all winter long I will be surrounded by spring flowering bulbs.
In addition, I have assorted Wardian cases simulating mini-gardens to keep me company. A well appointed one of these never fails to put me in a good mood. ( Stay tuned for an article on terrariums and Wardian cases in the near future!). I’m also fortunate to have a modest-sized greenhouse and so, I escape to these forms of gardening quite willingly.It is a bit of cheating because there is none of the typical hardwork. Instead, with very little effort, all the joys of a garden are provided – greenery, flowers, fragrance. Gardners get unhappy if there is no where to garden.
Next, I address that tricky bit of creating more light. Replacing certain light bulbs with brighter ones makes a big difference. Particularly in spaces used for work, creative pursuits and, cooking. I also stock up on candles galore. A room lit with lots of candles instantly gives the impression that a celebration is underway. Get the fireplace(s) going and I’m all set. With cozy in mind, I have deliciously warm, elegant throws at every spot one might settle in for a good read, chat or nap.
Continuing in my attempt to stave off the seasonal blues, I approach the next sense that must be satisfied. Okay, fooled. And that, is the influence on the nose. Fragrant candles that gently evoke visions of the beach or meadows are a boon. Likewise, citrus fruits scent the air nicely and transport me to sun-kissed orange groves. When the jasmine in the greenhouse starts blooming, it gets moved to the bedroom to hopefully guide me into dreams of nights in India where the air hangs heavy with such perfume.
In general, I’m concious about minimizing the carbon-foorprint of the foods I buy. But sometimes, my well-being takes priority and I permit myself to indulge in a crisp guava, a juicy mango, sweet papaya, fresh pineapple or, pretty cactus pear ( the last makes for a delicious sorbet or sauce) just so I can make-believe I’m in some tropical paradise.
This is not to say I don’t absolutely enjoy the hearty winter stews and other cold weather tasties. But occasionally, there is the desire to transport myself to sunny, warmer climes. Time and finances permitting, I try to fit in a brief escape to exactly such a place. Even a few days can do wonders to one who is miserable in the short, dark days of these parts. In a pinch, take a trip to a local nursery and bask amidst the plants in their greenhouses. Even better, visit the conservatories in botanical gardens. The lush, tropical plants, the warm, humid air and suddenly you are in a whole different world.
The benefits of time spent outdoors are of course not to be undermined. A brisk walk has often been just the ticket to get me energized both physically and mentally. I do so adore the beautiful, glittery winter landscapes. However, all too often I find myself lapsing into a distinct state of laziness. To get up from the comfy couch, put on layers and layers of clothes, don those winter boots, step into biting cold air …. can be rather unappealing right? But oh! The awfulness of wallowing in a condition of depressed spirits and uncreative mind is much, much worse. And so a regular walk becomes a habit.
Finally, seed and plant catalogs that begin to fill mail boxes from the fall onwards are set aside for perusal in the deep of winter. Just when one begins to despair that the freezing weather will never end, the catalogs provide hope. They are the fodder that feeds the heart with dreams of future gardens. To envision all sorts of horticultural possibilities is wildly exciting and endlessly pursued. The pulse quickens, the imagination soars, eyes shine and designs are drawn, orders are placed as the soul is awoken to look ahead with optimism. With the gradual lengthening of days, the promise of spring is made good.
The sun will once again triumph and banish the long night. The demons will be silenced, fears will be overcome as the dark spaces are made visible. Light shall settle on earth’s shoulders and spring will be reborn. I believe with all my heart.
Lead Kindly Light, Amidst The Encircling Gloom …. – John Henry Newman 1833.