Last Tuesday, I was part of a circle of women* gathered around the fireplace in our Parish Hall. We began our time together by reflecting on and sharing our answers to the questions: “What do you love most about winter? What do you find most challenging about winter?” Light, both the exquisite quality of it, and the lack of it, was a common refrain. The architecture and silhouettes of naked trees, another. Some of us love wearing winter clothes and sweaters; some miss gardening and warmer outdoor activity. All of us, it seemed, were grateful simply to be gathered together, masked and all, by the fireplace, which crackled and glowed.
Our discussion was led by one of our “Ruth’s Sisters” who also happens to be a professional therapist. We learned about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that begins and ends during a specific season every year; it doesn’t have to be winter, specifically, although most people do experience SAD during the winter months. What some of us call the “winter blues” refers to a milder version of SAD, which appears to be related to varying amounts of exposure to sunlight in different seasons; this in turn affects biological and neurological functioning and can lead to fatigue, low mood, increased appetite, difficulty falling asleep at night, and other experiences associated with depression. Getting sunlight (or a light box!) first thing in the morning for 15-30 minutes helps, as does going for a daily walk and committing to a regular sleep routine and schedule. To learn more, click https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder , with many thanks to Annick Barker, LCSW-C, for leading our discussion and putting together the handout/information sheet from which most of the above was taken.
One remedy or way of navigating through winter blues can be delighting in even the smallest of things. As a holiday gift this year, a friend of mine gave me a lovely collection of essays called The Book of Delights, by award-winning poet Ross Gay. The mindfulness and attentiveness he gives to things many (most?) of us would overlook, combined with his gift of writing, are truly a delight (I will never look at a praying mantis in quite the same way again, after reading Essay #7!). If you’re looking for a book that you can digest and be nurtured by in small, bite-size pieces, I commend this gem to you.
Speaking of delighting in even the smallest of things, below is the poem with which our group of women ended our “fireside chat” the other evening (with many thanks to Annick Barker, again, for sharing this with us!). On this cold winter day, on the ??th day of our ongoing pandemic, amidst so much that continues to be hard in our lives and in our world today, may you experience something of bounty and delight … and remember that God delights in You.
Make much of something small.
The pouring-out of tea,
a drying flower’s shadow on the wall
from last week’s sad bouquet.
A fact: it isn’t summer anymore.
Say that December sun
is pitiless, but crystalline
and strikes like a bell.
Say it plays colours like a glockenspiel.
It shows the dust as well,
the elemental sediment
your broom has missed,
and lights each grain of sugar spilled
upon the tabletop, beside
pistachio shells, peel of a clementine.
Slippers and morning papers on the floor,
and wafts of iron heat from rumbling rads,
can this be all? No, look – here comes the cat,
with one ear inside out.
Make much of something small.
~Robyn Sarah, from A Day’s Grace (Porcupine’s Quill, 2003)
*Ruth’s Sisters: Women navigating midlife transitions in body, mind and spirit together in community grounded in faith and spirituality – meets twice a month, typically the 2d Tuesday evening 5:45-7:15 p.m. at Redeemer and 4th Saturday (time TBD) for a fun outing. For more info, contact Cristina.