Our yearly weather patterns don’t fit neatly into four seasons. I think we need at least six seasons to describe the climate around here, so I’ve decided to add a few of my own that take us on a journey across the continent, without leaving our home address. First there’s stereotypical autumn, lasting until about the middle of October. Then there’s what I call West Coast winter; the grass is still green but it’s cold, damp and rainy. After that we move into Indiana winter; light snowfall that doesn’t stay, puddles wearing thin shields of ice, and naked trees. During Indiana winter you might wear a toque, or even long underwear if you’re particularly well prepared, but it’s not crucial for your survival or sanity. And then finally, we get winter winter. The eyelash-freezing, snow-drifting, tongue-stuck-to-the-monkey bars kind of winter.
Currently we’re in Indiana winter but it won’t last much longer and we all know what’s coming. Frankly, even though I play my little geographical mind game to remind me of family living other places, November is taking it’s toll. It’s not that I dread the oncoming winter winter (February is actually one of my favourite months) or that I’m dealing with a clinical presentation of SAD. It’s that I can’t keep the kitchen counter clean, Lief has brain cancer, Sandra had an affair–and so did Robert and Nathan, Stan didn’t like the gourmet pizza I made last night, Erin is in the ER with anxiety attacks, we don’t have enough space for our shoes in our back entrance, Becky lives alone and is estranged from her family, my hair is getting thinner, I need the teeth-retainer I lost 19 years ago, there’s a world-wide phoshorous crisis nobody’s addressing, and I don’t have enough time to get my ironing done. See, I told you it’s not clinical.
When I lived in San Juan del Potrero, I used to climb the mountain behind the village to observe the shadows and light in the creases of the hills around me. The town lay like a pair of shoes beneath the ruffled skirt of the mountain range; the canyons, ridges and canopy of trees forming the folds of her petticoats. Had their been no contrast between the shadows and light to emphasize the contour of the land, the vista wouldn’t have been nearly as dramatic. When I took my beau up to the pass once, I told him, “It’s the shadows and light that make it so pretty.” (He understood what I meant, which is one of the reasons why I married him.)
I’ve already mentioned some of the shadows I’ve been noticing during these grey November days, so here’s some light. After all, where there are shadows there must be light…
Grandmas who come for a sleepover–for no reason
The thrill of piecing together loose thoughts, jingling around in my brain, with a string of words
Lucy, smiling in a pile of of rotting leaves before she has to go back to her sterile hospital room**
A storyteller, along with the Saskatoon symphony, whose live performance of this script elicits laughs and tears***
Early morning walks in the dark, on a snowy path illuminated by the moon
A sister who calls often enough so that menial subject matter qualifies as a reason to make a phone call (Hello? Hi, I was just wondering if I should I go to bed or wash dishes? Obviously, the correct answer–the one we consistently give each other–is Go to bed, but the dishes always end up getting washed during the course of the phone call)…
I realize my light-and-shadows theory isn’t unique. There must be a million blogs that publish gratitude lists, or encourage readers to be appreciative and mindful. And recognizing the dark and challenging side of life, though slightly less common, is the task of every writer, reader… and human. We all know plenty of honest writers and friends whose stories are meaningful because they share the whole story, both the good and the bad. But sometimes being unique isn’t as important as being thankful, especially in the middle of November when the shadows are are long.
Here’s to the strength, creativity and Grace we need to see the light next to the shadows. Thank you for reading both my lists,
*Most of the names in this post have been changed but the details are true.
**See another post about her here
***Nothing really serious, or sad, occurs in the show. Sometimes tears are an involuntary response when one note is played beside another.