Brightening the Winter Blues


“The light changes 10 minutes every day,” explained my friend about the palpable shift from one morning to the next in the Alaskan city where she lived for several years.

She had loved that fast-forward sunlight feature. How each day was dramatically different from the one before. How the sun’s rays could be in a completely new place, shine in a totally new way, than they had just a week earlier.

I have thought of this conversation often in the 18 days (yes, I’m counting) since the clocks in the U.S. paused for an hour and I now eat dinner in the pitch black night.

Because these days of darkness are hard for me. As much as I tell myself that I can improve my attitude,my truth is that I am simply more alive bathed in brightness, basking in warm beams. When the day begins fading at four and is completely snapped out by 5:30, I just feel … depressed, sad, tired.

Every year, I vow that I will embrace the beauty of the darkness. I’ll search for stars. I’ll take night walks. I’ll sleep more. I’ll appreciate the slowed-down pace. I’ll light candles.

Often I do — some of these, all of these. And they help. A little. For awhile.

But every year I am trudging my way through February only by focusing on the coming spring.

Are others less affected than I am? More willing to hibernate? Better at managing expectations? I don’t know.

What I do know is that I greet every November (and December and January and February) with dread.

In Roanoke, Va., where I live, my summer solstice is five hours and eight minutes brighter than my December 21st. Ugh. 

But what to do? Short of moving to the equator, my only recourse is to switch my perspective somehow.

I circle back to my friend’s embrace of the Arctic’s fast-changing light. I decide it’s not the darkness I need to learn to love. It’s the light. I’ve got to hold it tighter, cherish it harder, be more fully present to it.

There is less of it in these months, yes. But what if in its scarcity, I can value it more?

So that is my vow this winter: To treat the sun as a treasure to be carefully counted out every day and never wasted. Maybe that will get me to the end of February feeling glad and grateful.

Maybe there’s a bigger life lesson in this, too. Isn’t it always better to appreciate the gifts we are given rather than add up all we are not?