We are all affected by our environment, especially the weather. This is very obvious to me as an introvert. Each season brings a whole host of positive and negative impacts to my personal well being.
Add a high intensity job — one that is very ON all the time, with a lot of brain juice and interpersonal interaction required to be successful. This give you an emotional roller coaster that is sometimes exciting and sometimes overwhelming. It frequently leaves me drained. I need an hour or two in the evening just to start feeling human some nights. I like to listen to music and read. That’s the best balm for me. I can cruise the internet, watch a movie, or just mindless scan Facebook, but these are only partially successful. Some evenings I’ll just veg in front of the computer and never understand where the evening has slipped away to.
Many of my friends also suffer from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. When the days start to run shorter with cold and rain, dreary days with watery light and long periods with no real external stimuli, they start to find themselves sleeping more, find difficulty in recovering from large gatherings, and basically cocooning themselves into a hibernation state. Depression is always hovering on the edge of things, or in some cases, smothering the energy out of them. Winter is dark and depressing. A time of long, dark days and little hope.
I have a different view. Luckily my SAD symptoms are lighter than most. I thrive in this time of year. But I didn’t realize it until I moved west.
When I moved to Seattle in 1997, I thought I was in heaven. First of all we don’t have the weather extremes of my home state, Kentucky. And there is a dramatic reduction in humidity in the summer months. But the overwhelming positive things I love about Seattle are that it’s always green here, even in the heart of winter, and the fact I’m not one of those people who want to be out in the sun.
Heck, being in the sun for any length of time gives me a headache. I have to lather on the sunscreen and wear a hat, or I’m wiped out for the rest of the day after only a couple of hours out in the bright shiny day. In those hot, muggy summer days, you can only take off so many clothes and the humidity sucks the life out of you. Worse is the air conditioning which makes you feel like you’re turning to plastic.
To me, the sunshine is best observed from a nice shady spot where I have a tall glass of iced tea and a good book to read. That’s the best.
But here, those bright, sunny days only last for six to eight weeks a year at most. The rest of the year we get cloudy to rainy to windy and finally, on odd year, snowy. Now, I can get snow more frequently if I drive thirty minutes east to the mountains and I can get more bluster and squalls if I go out to the coast. But, like the sunshine, snow is best observed from a different place, not directly in the weather itself.
Even if it’s inside a dry tent listening to the rain and the wind rattle the fly, or inside a cabin listening to the weather rage against the rafters, I just plain prefer fall and winter. Being from Kentucky, I never really became a water person. I don’t have the desire to lay on a beach or even swim. I never learned to sail or dive.
But sitting on the porch at the ocean, watching the winter weather gnash and rage across the rolling waves of the ocean, while I’m dry and warm with a good book, a cup of tea and a roaring fire. That’s the balm I need for a crazy, busy world.
And the writing. Oh, dude. When I have that warm enough to be comfortable, but chilly enough to know it’s worse outside, with the waves crashing on the shore and giving a constant, grinding background rumble. That’s when I can really write. Some of my best writing has been done at the coast, in the winter, while the winter winds stirred the froth on the waves and the world was swallowed by the intensity of the sound.
Or, another favorite is being in the heart of the rainforest, in a cabin while snow falls all around, and the sun is setting over Lake Quinalt while I have my headphones on listening to my favorite music, from Black Sabbath to Rush to Bach or Mozart. If I’m feeling particularly moody I’ll throw on the soundtrack from the Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter and let the words flow through me from the ether and onto the screen.
February 2012 I had my most amazing hour of writing productivity in that moment. A perfect three thousand word hour. I knew where I was going, knew what I had to do, and just cranked out the story like breathing.
So, while I appreciate folks who are affected by SAD, or really prefer the sunshine, give me the heart of the winter. I can always throw on another sweater, make more tea and crank some tunes.
I love the way the world feels in that moment.
It’s a kind of peace that is rare in my world, and fondly remembered.