January. Some say it's the renewal month where you make goals to improve your mind and body, and shed bad habits. Some say it's the month of relaxation after the hectic holiday season. And some say take it to a deeper level and hibernate - insulate yourself by staying away from real-life social interaction where horrid flu germs flourish and attack without mercy, knocking you down for days of agony and discomfort.
For me, January brought dark days of lethargy. It seemed like winter, with its frigid temperatures, banks of snow, and long nights, stretched on for more months of the year than the other way around. It affected everything I did, which wasn't much because I couldn't seem to get enthusiastic about anything.
But a couple of years ago when January rolled around once more, I realized that I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Without getting technical, it means that I missed bright sunlight. I didn't feel it on my face which told my brain it wasn't happening and therefore the world was a dreary place. Of course, that's a naive way of saying it, but it's pretty close to the truth when you consider that SAD goes away with a few hours of bright light therapy.
|Typical light therapy unit used for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Source: wikipedia|
Last year I kept waiting for the disorder to appear, but when it didn't I put it down to an absence of snow and a mild winter that didn't get much colder than -25C. Even the blizzard and 2 1/2 foot snow dump in March didn't put a damper on me, but by then spring really was only a week or two away.
This year, however, it's different. Take last Sunday, for example. The temp was -29C but the wicked wind chill made it feel like -39C outside. Considering that -40C is the same as -40F and you get the idea. But we bundled up and drove across the prairie to church. After only a few minutes of greetings, someone said to me, "How come you're so chipper this morning?"
Chipper? Me? In the middle of January? With a wind that had tried to freeze my eyeballs when I went out to take a picture of the sunrise that morning?
I simply smiled and shrugged. "I'm here. I'm alive. The sun is shining and the days are getting longer. And spring is just around the corner." Apparently I don't have SAD this year.
This is my second winter in my office in the house. I used to get more fresh air and sunlight when I had to make numerous daylight trips to my office in the garage. But it was cold in there with a cement floor, albeit carpet covered, and my window faced the shadows and deadwood under the towering spruce trees. Although my house office also faces west, the light level is more than double, even on cloudy days. I still have trees, but they often sport birds, a welcome distraction. Watching the chickadees search for seed they've tucked away is comical at times, as are the birds who check out weathered nests when the temperature nears the freezing point, even when spring is still 2 months away.
|Common Redpoll appears to check out frosty nest.|
Perhaps SAD hasn't affected me this year because I spend more time savoring a coffee while watching the sun rise, each morning a little closer to our driveway. This is my gauge because when I can look down the driveway and see the sun rising at the end, I know its growing heat will soon melt all traces of snow.
However, I think one of the biggest differences is my attitude toward winter itself. Years ago when I stopped enjoying the benefits of cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, I looked at it as a season to get through as best I could. I still do, but like those early days, I've started getting out more for the sole purpose of enjoying what's there. A lot of that has to do with my camera, because I take pleasure in recording what I see, and these days I'm astounded at what's out there. I always knew Saskatchewan teemed with wildlife, yet I now feel as if God has washed my eyes and told me to take another look. I'm rubber-necking all the way to town, wherever I go, and back home again.
I'm reporting my images and findings to nature and conservation groups to let them know what we have so that they can make informed decisions. They need hard evidence, especially when they go up against groups that think nature doesn't matter for our welfare.
The more I see, the more blessed I feel, and the more I want to show what God has created. Except for the snow. I may not like it, but it sure is easier to see deer, coyotes, and other wildlife when they're walking across a blanket of snow.
Apparently, the temperature is rising to the freezing point of 0 deg C this week. Yep, I should probably take a break from writing and spend a couple hours scouring the prairie while the sun beams down on me through the windows of my car. Strictly for my health, of course.
What about you? Does January get you down?
Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are written under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at: