The winter blues have never been a problem in my life, as they have for many friends who speak often about their generalized or indistinct feelings of depression at this time of year. They swear it’s not family-related and I believe them.
I went to a college-preparatory boarding school for four years, located in northern Arizona at about 2,700 feet in the northeast edge of the enormous Sonoran Desert that stretches from central western Mexico near Culiacan, up across the border to Palm Springs in the west, and in the east to about where my converted turkey coop stood—all 6 feet high of it. I had room to walk in, turn around and walk out. I sat at a desk or laid on a bed. The space between me and the desert was about an inch and a half, and it was divided mostly by two large screen windows with canvas flap awnings. It was heaven. Mainly because I had died before going there.
The climate was, more or less, dry and sunny. The sunrises and especially sunsets were uniformly spectacular all the time. Day was a giant carapace of light, either shaded blue or marble white with a yellowish dot struggling through the high pressure atmosphere. In other words, Oz. At no time and under no circumstances did I ever feel sad or blue. It was like a dream I never woke up from for the better part of four solid years.
Therefore, going home for Christmas was like entering a meat locker with a busted light. It was shocking that I had so quickly forgotten the happy days of living in a pair of ice skates all winter without much to worry about except being punished for skipping meals. Again, a dome of light hung over me all day and in the evening a string of lights crowned the darkness, as if we kids were being decorated for honors. It was beautiful and there wasn’t even a hint of sadness. I dropped into bed exhausted every night.
As a teenager, however, speed skating was a league sport and I was out of the community and literally out of my league. The girls and boys were different too—strangers now in space and time, no matter that I knew their names. Out of sight, out of mind. So as soon as possible I contrived to return to Arizona where it was crystal clear all day and the heavens actually opened up at night. I had never seen anything like the winter night sky in Arizona. I was told it was the same in the summer but I never saw it then. Summer might have been more hazy.
In the summertime I was back in the jungle that is Illinois. No such thing as the blues there, except what they played in the night clubs my friends and I snuck into on the south side. That wasn’t a sad experience, either. It was electrifying.
But now I understand the winter blues. The angles, rays and sidearm tosses of light, as if it was a stage set being rearranged or “struck”. Blows, like we had in the Midwest when I was little, vast winter storms that raged for weeks, as if punishing the inhabitants of the Great Plains. Indeed, I sometimes thought it was nuts to live there in the winter. But the jungle of summer explains everything. The richest soil in the world nurtures domesticated crops in such quantity and quality the world has never seen. Why go anywhere?
This seasonal train of thought began at a staff meeting where we were discussing our holiday wreaths. “They’ll sell okay for Christmas—then drop off” was the consensus. I found it odd. Wreaths should sell all winter and not because I am especially greedy. They represent the spirit of summer—“everlasting”. They are a keeper of the vital flame of life, and this isn’t an exaggeration. Dolls began as the same type of object, a holder or even vessel of the animating force of life, in this case to amuse children who get bored indoors.
I enjoy the various festivals. They all seem to bunch together in the winter, more or less. Halloween to Easter. Like the wreaths and dolls, they grasp at the spirits of summer to “over-winter” the forces of life. (What true festivals occur in the summer?) Maybe festivals were the virtual realities of the prehistoric world. Certainly of the ancient civilizations. Folks often went crazy from partying through the long nights. Summer, oddly enough, was down time. Too busy to celebrate!
I see the flares of brilliance and intelligence of fiery youths. Young people burn brightest in winter. They’re bored so they become even more inventive than in summer. They flock around and roam the sidewalks, in luminous ensembles or flying solo. They are human “Grow Lights”. You can raise seedlings by them. Thank God for that. Winter would be boring without the young.
We all await reemergence and rebloom.