Navigating The Winter Doldrums

Back in the days when I did some canoeing in Canada, we used to sit around the campfire on a summer night and talk about the grand old history of the Northwest Company during the fur-trading days. One of the requirements of being a member of its Beaver Club in Montreal was that you had to have wintered “north of 60,” that is, in the far north, above 60 degrees north latitude.

To me, that had no appeal. I have a hard enough time wintering at 42 degrees north latitude in the winter. The days here are already short, the nights are long, and the sky is mostly overcast. Yuck! I would not have been a candidate for the Beaver Club or, for that matter, for living in Alaska. The doldrums of winter are bad enough living right here.

So, since we know that it is coming every year, what do people our age around here do? Many head for Florida. Some, at their peril, still go downhill skiing. Others just “hunker in their bunker,” turn on the TV, and try to disconnect from what is actually going on outside.

However, I think the best recipe for dealing with winter, at our age, comes in deflecting its reality. One of our diversions is wheeling out the old-time diversion known as the jig saw puzzle. When the jig saw puzzles start coming out at our house, you know that winter has arrived.

As a kid, I thought that jig saw puzzles were just a big waste of time. “Let’s go sliding!” “Let’s go outside and build a snow man!” “How about heading out on pair of cross-country skis?” We met the realities of winter by directly embracing it.

But, age changes things. The old body is just not going to go out and do those things anymore. The jig saw puzzle has the unique ability, somehow, to make you think you are still doing something while letting you look out the window at a beautiful winter scene and counting your lucky stars.

When I was growing up on the farm, I enjoyed what we called “field work.” That meant, getting on a tractor and plowing or harrowing ground, then planting it, and, when the crop was ready, harvesting it. I always enjoyed, at the end of the day, looking back on a plowed field or a harvested corn crop and feeling good about having accomplished something.

I get the same feeling with jig saw puzzles. You bang away at them for days at a time trying to match colors and shapes, and then–whoosh! It all comes together and you have a beautiful portrait in front you.

Reading a good book can give you same feeling. Also, in winter, I tend to do more cooking–putting a good meal on the table gives one a sense of accomplishment.

However you do it, you need to battle the gloom of winter. One of my good friends starts counting the lengthening of days that follows the winter solstice, i.e., Spring is coming!

Whatever you do, don’t make big life-changing decisions in the heart of winter. Your outlook can be too gloomy. Wait at least till March and probably April for that. The sun is coming back. The doldrums of winter will be over.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.


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