Today is the shortest day of the year, if you live in the southern hemisphere. If you live in the northern hemisphere then the summer solstice signals warmer weather ahead (thank goodness I can hear you sigh). For me the darkness feels like a turning inward, a retreat from life, and maybe there is such a thing as a madness from a lack of light.
When we lived in Canada in 2011, the winters were cold and long, although maybe it felt that way more because we had one half of a winter when we arrived and the other half at the end of our twelve month exchange (we arrived and left in mid-January). In experiencing a season twice in the course of the year, and enjoying the snow and skiing, Canada really did feel like one long winter (and so-called summer really only lasted six weeks). There were times when the whole world felt like a picture postcard winter wonderland and I had to pinch myself. Although most of the time it just rained.
My moods definitely changed and I’m sure I suffered a little seasonal affective disorder (or SAD disease) – a genuine condition caused by a lack of daylight, a feeling that the sun might never shine again.
(Funny how it rained so much, but I never photographed the rain! And funny how today, the longest day of the year in Squamish, where we lived in Canada, is 14 degrees celcius and raining, while here, the shortest day of the year, it’s 13 degrees celcius and
overcast raining. Someone’s summer is another’s winter.)
It didn’t help that I had cabin fever, stuck inside a small house with a toddler, knowing no-one really in those first few cold, dreary, wet months when the sky itself felt like it was closing in on me. Majestic, magnificent mountains surrounded us, if only we could have seen them most of the time under all that mist. The clouds hung low and claustrophobic on the landscape and my inner landscape felt like it had turned into gloom and grey.
The winter solstice is when the sun is at its farthest point away from us (in the case of the southern hemisphere) yet at the same time in the northern hemisphere the sun is as close as it gets all year. Of course the faithful sun remains in the same spot as our earth moves on its axis – it’s in the nature of change to be relative to how we see it – yes it is darker and colder right now but winter is just a season, like any other, there is no real reason to feel down.
Of course winter is a yin season, a time for rest and reflection, to plan for the new start that spring heralds. Autumn, also yin, is about letting go, so that by winter the trees are bare and we have stripped back our old ideas to the essence of ourselves, metaphorically speaking, making way for the new growth that will follow. Spring and summer, the yang seasons, are for activity, being outside, enjoying the sunshine. But despite the temperature differences, there is something very similar in the feeling of enjoying long, lazy, hazy summer days and long, lazy, cozy, winter nights – a sense of pause, that maybe time has stopped and change won’t be inevitable as it is.
Living in a climate of warmth and sunshine (we officially have an average of 300 sunny days a year!) I am spoiled for sunshine under a big, bright Aussie sky. Our year in Canada made me appreciate this like never before – when we came home the sun hurt my eyes it was so bright! But here we also feel the shock of winter, without heating – those cold crisp mornings of blue-sky winter days and the unexpected gloominess of dreary days like today.
Our year in Canada also made me appreciate the distinct seasons (well the winter did seem to run a very long time into a short spring and then the briefest of summers, followed by a long autumn and winter again) – BUT, I noticed the changes like never before, I anticipated and welcomed them (even the closing cold of Autumn or Fall was offset by the spectacular show of trees as the leaves turned red, pink, burnt orange, golden yellow). Change was heralded, celebrated with the Thanksgiving holiday.
I’ve started some business coaching, introspection first, and we’ll see what is to come out of this fledgling blog and the ideas swimming in my head. Change will come, of course.
I’ll leave you with the Byrds, and their 1965 classic, Turn, Turn, Turn!
Love to know your favourite season, do you feel the winter madness/sadness? Please join in the comments below.
Linking up for FYBF With Some Grace.