Maybe it’s just the cold medicine talking (I’m about two seconds from taking a sick day, I swear!), but the Daily OM really set me thinking today with their article A Season Of Slumber: Winter .
In times past, the bare-limbed trees, long nights, and biting chill of winter signified to all that the time had come to slow down. Humanity emulated the animals, retreating into cozy dwellings where they sustained themselves on foods harvested late in autumn and passed the time in peaceful reflection.
Before the Denizens started coming along, I really did this kind of thing. As I’ve mentioned before, my business followed the agricultural calendar pretty closely – Spring and Summer were loaded with hard work (and paychecks!)…Fall brought an abrupt slowdown (fewer paychecks…), December brought a brief flurry of weddings and parties (paychecks!!), and then…Winter set in for real (no paychecks to speak of for three long months).
I’d spend my time from January to March puttering around. I read. I knitted. I worked on new music. January always brought the Ceremonial Restringing of the Harp, a day-long adventure in discovering just how many new strings could possibly break upon tightening out of a pack of 36, and a month-long journey into tuning and retuning and tuning yet again until she would hold her 440-ish A* for any length of time.
I seldom made any kind of real plans for my days, during the winter. I’d get up and, after sending my husband off into the cold, cruel world, I’d wander around for a while until something would grab my attention. Maybe the pantry shelves could use new contact paper. Maybe the sock drawer was a tad out of control. Costume embroidery to be done (or repaired). Leather pieces oiled. All of it done in a kind of luxurious slow-motion, without the rush and bother of other times of the year. I had nowhere to be in particular, so if I wanted to take a whole day sorting socks – eh, whatever. Party on.
I’d write pieces to submit to magazines; once in a blue moon, they were actually published. (Paycheck! YAY!)
But overall, it was a time to do…nothing of any particular urgency. Sit around with a cat on my lap, reading all the books my friends had told me about during the season when I had precisely no time at all for such frivolous pursuits.
It was a saner time, people.
Sometimes, I feel as though we try to pretend we aren’t part of this world any more. That we feel we should be able to ignore the weather outside, that we should take to heart the battle-cry of the postman: “Through rain, sleet, wind and snow, the postman always delivers!”
And the mom always gets the kids to ballet.
And the sales rep always mans his phones.
And the admin always files her invoices in neat, alphabetical order.
In a way, it’s just kind of how it has to be. File cabinets don’t harden up in the winter time, making it impossible to crack their shells and put invoices into them. Ballet class carries on in heated studios, safe from the wind and rain. People want to buy things even if there is a foot of snow on the ground (and hey, if you’ll deliver, they’re doubly interested). And the bills…well, they haven’t changed a bit. Still have no respect for weather, religion, or the psyche of Winter, irritating little beggars that they are.
But I love this:
“If your body articulates a desire to rest, give yourself permission to spend your free time reading, writing in your journal, daydreaming, engaging in artistic pursuits, playing board games, working a puzzle or meditating.”
Hey, there’s an idea. Be a part of the world, let our bodies work within its rhythms, not constantly try to be ‘above’ or ‘outside’ it. Animals don’t go out in blizzards. Why the heck do we? If an animal is exhausted, it quite sensibly takes a nap – what’s our problem, that we insist on pounding back caffeine and making our bodies go-go-go anyway?!
We humans insist that the world doesn’t shut down just because of a little snow (well, try telling the folks waiting at airport terminals that sometime), and that the world never stops, and so forth and so on…but actually, it does.
It’s the way of Nature. And we butt heads with Nature at our own peril.
I wonder how much of the “holiday depression” comes from our insistence on making every day just the same. In the summer, I go to work and come home in the light and honestly, I seldom feel all that blue; in the winter, darkness shrouds me and I quite easily become depressed by even tiny problems. I drive in the dark. I come home to a dark house. I know I have a yard out there, but darned if I could tell you what it looks like.
What would happen, I wonder, if we were to shift our working policies to meet the hours of sunlight? Even if it meant that you were working more hours in the summer…what if? What if we were to say, you go to work one hour after sunrise, and go home one hour before sunset? Sure, in the summer you might be working from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. – but that’s the nature of summer, isn’t it? Long, bright days, full of bright-sun energy?
And in the winter? Rise later, work shorter hours, come home to snuggle up in your Den with a warm cup of something. Relax and let the season renew you, like the seeds that see the transition from cold to warmth as their cue to spring out of the ground.
I wonder, I really do wonder, if we wouldn’t find we emerged from these dark, cold months renewed, excited by the possibilities of Spring, ready to take it all on again for the next nine months of sowing, growing, and reaping…
This is, of course, like wondering what would happen if we could stop seeing others by gender or race, or what it would be like if we could manage a society wherein each gave according to their ability and took according to their need, or if we could go to a flat Federal sales tax instead of an income tax, or if entertainment magazines would go out of business entirely if Bradjolina broke up. In practical terms, I’m sure employers would embrace the idea in the summer and then scream and cry and renege on the deal in the winter. There might be soda pop shortages due to the short working hours for Pepsi truck drivers, and gosh-almighty forbid the invoices might pile up on desks all across America.
But isn’t it a fun thing to ponder?
And wouldn’t it be kind of lovely?
* 440 refers to the cycles per second, or Hertz, of a note – 440 being the A above middle C the concertmaster will generally ask the oboist to sound for the collective tuning of the orchestra. Got that? There will be a quiz later…
P. J. O'Rourke
15 hours ago