The weather in Maine this morning looks like the zombie apocalypse. Here are the signs:
Dark skies, whipping rain, leaves being ripped from near-bare tress, an unseasonable humid warmth to the air, flashing emergency vehicles, college kids in flip-flops.
With the help of a friend, I re-decked my porch yesterday. At forty-six years of age, I’ve finally discovered the all-consuming erotic pull of power tools.
If my boss gives me the day off on Friday, I plan on re-plastering and painting my dining room ceiling.
My wife and I went to the hardware store last night after dinner and looked at tubs and lighting fixtures.
These are strange times indeed.
Winter is right around the corner, so that means it’s time for me to come up with my yearly list of survival strategies. Assuming the zombies don’t attack, I’ll try to continue with habits developed during past winters: getting plenty of exercise, drinking healing broths, wearing warm socks, being mindful of my dosha, taking the occasional sauna with friends, and when budget allows, going out for sushi and gelato afterwards. Winter in Maine turns all of us into the huddling masses. But there is hope. It’s early yet, but here’s what I’ve come up with. It’s a short list, but the less I have to strive for, the greater my chances of making it to March 2014 without hurting anyone:
1. Run more.
2. Eat one pomegranate per day.
3. Start downhill skiing (again).
That’s it. What are yours?
Psalm 91:6 says “You will not fear…the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.” But as winter approaches, I do fear what Christian monastics called “the noonday devil.” The creeping sense of sadness, lethargy, and despair that accompanies the season that is now almost upon us.
Andrew Solomon also wrote a beautiful, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful book on this very subject. Winter is the noonday demon of my year. The summer light is fading. The sun is going to ground. Like our brother bear, as mammals we humans may also wish to sleep these cold months away.
But we must resist the urge to hibernate, and instead find ways to fill ourselves with warmth and light.
I have developed a few strategies that help me, and may help you, through the dark, icy months ahead. First, we must keep moving. I had a friend in college who said that he gained weight in the summer, but stayed fit in the winter. The reason, he told me, was because during the summer he lounged around eating too much cheese and crackers and drinking way too much wine. Fair enough. But during the winter months (in his cold native Ohio) he spent his time skiing and ice skating to stay active and keep the pounds off. Myself, I wake at 4:30 am and head to my local YMCA for some running, weight lifting, rowing, or whatever else I can do to stoke the engine of my metabolism for the rest of the day. Even though the opposite would seem to be true, the more active we are, the more energy we have. So don’t pad your den; exercise instead. Even if it’s a walk around the block.
Second, although we have a temptation to eat heavy, comforting foods, for me the opposite is true. I need to stay light, both in my eating and my attitude. What I do consume, however, are warming teas and other homemade potions to keep my agni burning. My favorite is a very simple “tea” made from hot water and a blend of powdered ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, and sometimes a clove or two. Ginger especially is good for maintaining energy and a robust digestive fire.
Third, we share an occasional sauna with friends at one of my favorite places on earth, and one I’m so blessed to live close to. I also use full-spectrum or halogen light bulbs in my home and at work wherever I can, to mimic natural sunlight.
Reading over what I just wrote, I guess my keys for keeping the demon and the sadness at bay can be summed up in three words: movement, warmth and light. Take that, you devil.
Sorry to go all all Tanzan on you like that, but sometimes a guy just needs to get away. Where did I go, you may ask? The easy, but untruthful answer would be to say something like “I was swimming in Walden Pond,” or “I was busy becoming a Buddhist, Rastafarian, Gospel-of-Thomas Christian.” (This might actually be true, since that’s about what I am) But the real answer is that for the longest time I just didn’t have anything to say. Frankly, I don’t know how these professional bloggers do it. Something new every day? My mind doesn’t work that way, I guess. But for the longest time, there was something missing in my life, and I realized it was creative expression. So I’m going to try a new tact, and perhaps be a little more experimental with this blog. Maybe I’ll throw in some poetry or a few more photographs. We shall see. I’m working on a few things right now that I’ll hopefully be able to share with you shortly. As I look out my window right now, I see snowflakes swirling down from the sky. It’s mid-March, and somehow these snowflakes seem unfair. This has been a cruel winter. I can’t afford to heat my tiny house, the front end of my ancient Accord is making scary noises, and my feet are always cold no matter how many pairs of Smartwools I put on. But I have my health, my family, my Buddha nature, and now, once again, I have my blog. Henry’s back from the woods.