The Roundup -

Long Blue Afternoon Shadows


January 9, 2019 | View PDF

It’s that time of year again when the winter doldrums strike. Those incredibly dark three weeks on either side of the winter solstice are enough to drive anyone mad. The three weeks in December prior to the solstice pass relatively smoothly with the preparations for the holidays occupying everyone’s attention. However, those three weeks after the shortest day of the year, in bleak January without distractions of the Christmas season, seem interminable, and one wonders if the sun will in fact actually start its journey back across the skies to bring spring.

January, the coldest month of the year, not only brings frigid temperatures, it also gives scanty daylight hours and long dark nights. Experts tell me the days have begun lengthening with each passing day but it certainly takes several weeks to notice and celebrate the change. Even though the days supposedly get longer, the fact remains that by three in the afternoon on a January day, those long blue shadows stretching across the landscape let us all know that twilight isn’t far off. As soon as the sun drops below the horizon, cold and darkness descend rapidly.

In summer we seldom think about the short shadows, kept in their place by a sun high overhead, but winter mocks us with a different story. Those shadows stretch endlessly across the ground in midafternoon, the light gets a certain violet cast to it and we know daylight will vanish before too long and that we don’t have a lot of natural daylight left to finish up any outdoor task.

I read somewhere that the month of January sees the highest number of separations and divorces. I get it. I understand why people suffer depression at this time of year. Lack of sunshine, a lot of clouds, and a scarcity of blue sky can wreck anyone’s mental outlook. January is a tough month, my least favorite time of year. The holiday season has ended, people have returned to the daily grind, and they face short days, dark nights, and often quite chilly temperatures. January can provide bright sunny days with crystal clear, achingly beautiful skies, but it also gives us clouds, wind, snow, sleet, and unsavory winter weather.

National Soup Month occurs in January, as well as does Hot Tea Month. Why does this not surprise me? Soup and tea seem like good ideas to help chase the blues on cold winter days.

I get quite discouraged in January, so I try hard to take advantage of every single sunny day that this month has to offer. Daylight is precious this time of year, and when this dark month gives us the opportunity to lose oneself in a sky so deep blue that it almost hurts to look at it, I need to get out and enjoy the day for an uplift in spirits and to remind me that spring will arrive eventually.

So, I have to work with January, not against her. January’s few hours of delightful sunshine provide lots of ways to chase the winter blues, so I try to take advantage of them. My dog and I take long walks, or lots of short walks if temperatures have dipped to an uncomfortable level. I find small outdoor activities to do, such as filling the bird feeders, or polishing up my toboggan and taking it for a few runs down the hill. If I hadn’t given away my ice skates, I would skate on the community rink, but I am not about to purchase a new pair. I figure careening around the ice at my age just begs for an unwanted fall and a broken bone of one sort or another. I’ll settle for other activities that include sledding and hiking. Even traipsing through the snow to the open area we call the fire pit gives me fresh air, provides the dog with a chance to stretch her legs, and if the day is bright, allows the sunshine to work its magic.

We humans might not like to venture out in the cold of January, but I am amazed at the birds I hear, the deer tracks that wander through our property, and the signs of other wildlife sharing this mountain with us. Life goes on even if it may be cold and miserable some days. I try to keep that in mind when sunless days and frigid temperatures bring on mental stress.

I also smile when seed catalogues show up in my mailbox. Planting anything at all at this time of year is so far out of the question that seed catalogues seem a bit frivolous. However, they provide hours of entertainment on cold dreary days. I compare varieties, trying to decide what might and might not work in my small part of the world. I take comfort in the thought that if seed companies figure they can send out catalogues when the thermometer reads minus 3 and the weatherman snickers when he tells me the wind chill factor is minus 40, they must have unswerving faith that spring will follow in the future, however distant and impossible that future might seem at this point.

So, I live through January as best I can. I catch up on my reading and I get latch hook projects completed. I am thrilled when I turn the first page of the new calendar to show that February has arrived, as I figure that with February’s arrival, I can and will make it to spring. Those long blue afternoon shadows will surely begin to shorten up as the days grow longer.


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