Light in the Dark Time
The dark days of winter are not terribly relevant to my current location, but my fascination with them has known no bounds, spurring past moves as well as research on S.A.D. and the range of responses to seasonal changes- particularly in latitudes where they matter.
I spent what I remember as my first true winter in Sweden at 22. It is perhaps one of the coziest places on Earth to be introduced to the harsh season.
Seasons are incredibly sensual, as I came to learn in my adult life. Perception sharpens with each change. Alterations in the environment, to clothing, to movement, to forms of time spent with friends.
I grew up in what I refer to as a perpetual summer. San Diego is a lovely city, but if you’re looking for seasons, clearly it’s not the place for you. I didn’t experience my first Autumn until I was 21 and I was head over heels for it.
But, for many people, sun and light is what is all about. The idea of chasing Winter is ghastly. As one of my friends put it, when I wrote that I had moved to Alaska:
“Someday you may want to explain to me what the attraction is to god forsaken, cold-ass regions of the planet. In other words, why don’t you winter in Rio de Janiero?”
I suppose what my attraction is to these ghastly cold regions is in part survival, in part inner sensuality (all of the delicious coziness created and felt in the interiors to offset the wicked weather outside) and also simply the physical invigoration that comes from navigating the winter terrain. The flushed cheeks. The extra energy it takes to crunch through the piles of snow.
I remember some years back fantasizing about a Biosphere like project to take place in Antarctica or some remote region of the Arctic. Not an outdoor survival experiment but a legitimate and fairly complex building system to be constructed remotely in one of these regions and the inhabitants to endure living in them through the dark times. All the better if the structure also incorporated a sizeable underground unit.
One of my favorite movies, 12 Monkeys, hits on the concept, but in a more warped and doomsday manner (it is an American movie after all). The planet is undergoing a freeze and the majority of it’s inhabitants, aside from the scientists, are imprisoned in underground units. The main character is “released” pretty much purely for his memory skills and reliability to collect specimens from “above.”
I digress, but film portrayals of major planetary climate shifts and humans endurance of them is, in my opinion, only part of the collective fascination of how we will cope in different environments, and survive. What will we do with space, and ourselves?
S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is not specific only to people in arctic conditions. Even people in the Pacific Northwest talk about this affliction. I found a light therapy unit on the free giveaway table in the basement of my Portland apartment building. It was strong, but I found that I liked the dark, so gave it away. I know myself well enough to know that I can have bouts of gloom during the dark time but I tend to view it as a bit of gothic angst, paving way for production. Ceaseless bouts of sunny days during the summer grate on my psyche far more.
Winter, what is your plan?