Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Celebrate, Don't Hibernate?

By Martha Reed

It was a surprise to me to open the kitchen curtains on Thursday morning and see an accumulation of snow on the cars parked by the ball field. Of course, I knew winter was coming, but as soon as my furnace fires up I traditionally go into a state of denial that lasts pretty much until Spring break.

I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for sixteen years now, so you’d think I’d be used to Old Man Winter. Lord knows I’ve got the gear: six coats, gloves and mittens, three pairs of boots, a red plastic snow shovel, a fifteen dollar bag of rock salt. I didn’t have any of this stuff when I lived in Texas. Well, maybe the boots, but they were made from exotic leathers back then and not all-weather ‘outdoor enthusiast’ Canadian-made Sorels.

It’s not that I hate the cold – I don’t. I can take the cold until it gets down to zero. After that, I am inside wrapped up in a fleece coverlet sipping something warm. I think what I object to is the DARK.

I’m an early riser and in the winter when I get up my day is dark. I work downtown in a cubicle farm until 5PM, and when I come out of the building it’s still dark. I do try to go for a walk at lunchtime just to see the daylight. Honestly, I don’t know how people in more northern climates survive. I remember one episode of Northern Exposure when someone imported lighted visors to help the townsfolk cope with Seasonal Attitude Disorder. One chronically crotchety old man had a complete change of personality when exposed to sunlight – of course, being Northern Exposure the townsfolk wanted the older crotchety version back.

Here’s another favorite Northern Exposure scenes:

And then there’s the opposite problem. Have you seen the movie Insomnia? Al Pacino plays an LA detective, Will Dormer, who gets sent to Alaska to investigate a homicide. Alaska, the land where the summer sun never sets. The plot is gripping enough, but there are two scenes in particular that had me sitting on the back of my chair. I won’t give them both away, I want you to rent the DVD, but the scene I really like has Will Dormer freaking out in his hotel room – he can’t sleep because his room is never really fully dark. A seam of watery daylight shows around his blackout curtain and Al Pacino turns it loose. I didn’t need a Pacino performance to understand what it was he was trying to say!


Joyce said...

I don't like the dark, either. And don't get me started on that daylight saving time crap. (It does NOT save energy-you still have lights on, whether it's in the morning or the evening!) I know our weather has been pretty mild, but I'm still looking forward to spring.

Tory said...

I went on a vacation in Ireland one summer and I do have to say, it was really weird only getting an hour or two of dark! I can't imagine what it was like in the winter.

At least in Scandinavia, you get the snow on the ground in winter, and that lightens things up a whole lot. In high school I was living in Michigan and had a horse, and it was OK riding after dark if there was snow on the ground. If not, forget it!

Annette said...

It's not just the dark as in shorter days, it's the dark as in GRAY SKIES that get to me. Day after day after day of no sunshine definitely gets me down. Yesterday morning the sky was blue for about ten minutes when the sun first came up and I felt energized. Then the clouds rolled in. This morning, it's blah gray already.

And, Joyce, I'm with you regarding DST. I get jet lag every spring and fall when they monkey with the clocks.

mike said...

Martha, I hear ya! I survived 3 winters in central West Germany with a great appreciation for the sun. When I worked the day shift on base from Nov. thru Feb., I'd arrive at 8 a.m. in the dark, work all day in a windowless cinder block building surrounded by two rows of electrified fences, then leave at 4 p.m., again in the dark. Five days straight w/o light. Weekends weren't much better cause the sky was blanketed with grey clouds almost continuously from Sept. to May. The dreariness gave me great insight into the German psyche.

Lee Lofland said...

I knew I was going to hate living in Seattle when I heard the news on our first morning there. The meteorologist announced, "Today is going to be a light gray day."

The other choices were medium gray, dark gray, and just plain rain.

Gina said...

Thanks for the clip -- Chris was always my favorite character on Northern Exposure. [OK, I liked Ed & Marilyn a lot, too.] Unfortunately, I'm at work where I have no speakers, so I can only guess that he's saying something about long winter nights?

I spend some time in Copenhagen one summer, and although the days nominally lasted about 23 hours, the light was gray and gloomy, a winter kind of daylight. I hate to think of how it is this time of year.

kristine said...

Okay, I'm going to be the oddball because I LOVE the dark. I look forward to the shorter days and darker days of fall and winter.

Don't worry--I'm not a vampire or depressed or anything, but too many sunny days get to me after a while. I prefer the dreary, rainy days.

Gina said...

Kristine -
Are you sure you shouldn't be writing horror? Or at least gothics?

Joyce said...

Kristine, I think maybe the hormones have gotten to your brain. :-D

kristine said...

Maybe that's why I like scary movies so much! Hm.

lisa curry said...

When my husband and I took an Alaskan cruise, we got an inside cabin (no windows) because it was cheaper, but it turned out to be great, because you could just turn off the light and have pitch blackness at any time of day or night -- even in the land of the midnight sun! :-)