Sunday, February 8, 2015

Winter Wanes

Eleanor says she's doing just fine, thanks. 
     After our return from the fabulous-ness that is London and Paris, we settled in for the new quarter. In the dead of winter, the sun doesn't rise so early- as late as 7:45 a.m. It goes down early too- 4:30. If you're not careful, it's easy to live in total darkness for about three months of the year- late October through late January. Lots of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for this reason. Imagine this compounded with all the rain in Seattle. We live in a relatively dry area, so the rain doesn't factor in much- but still. Beginning in October, I start reminding my students to remain active and to get some sun on their faces at least fifteen minutes a day. This ensures that their bodies will be able to make enough vitamin D and that psychologically, the smaller amount of daylight isn't as impactful as it could be. I follow that rule too. Is that my job as an English professor? No. Not technically. But I also warn them against coming to class if they are infectious with any weird (or normal) illness and to buckle up when they drive. Yes, I'm your Aunt English Professor. When you live this far north, SAD risk factors are just a fact of life. For those of you sun lovers, you should know that it stays light until 9:30-10 p.m. and the sun comes up at 4-4:30.

     I remembered pretty quickly my strategies from years ago, before I moved to Oklahoma, how to live in a dimly lit place. Judge me all you like, but I love winter and shortened daylight hours is one of the reasons. I get up early these days, between 4:30 and 6, and when I don't have to be at work before 9 a.m., I go to the gym in the mornings. If I don't get there early, I have something to look forward to in the afternoon or early evening. My days are mostly the same; meetings, teaching, answering frantic emails, and grading. Grading takes up a lot of psychic space for me. I have 77 students this quarter and each deserves time and attention. Writing is serious business and can be a huge part of their success in college. I volunteer to teach the beginning writing courses and I do enjoy it. I like knowing that because someone helped a student learn to read and write better- to more critically examine the materials presented to them- they have a better chance of graduating with a degree that means something to them. As a matter of fact, while I'm writing this, I simultaneously have a tab open to grade a homework assignment. In any case, I try to do these things in the morning while I feel energized.

     That's because once it gets dark, I lose my motivation to do...anything. My preferred evening activities are reading on the couch with G on one side and Eleanor on the other, or watching television in the same configuration.  And I'm in bed between 8 and 9. This is also why I love winter: I feel ok just resting. I'm *supposed* to hibernate. I have four favorite jammie bottoms made of soft cotton or flannel, with snowman and snowflake patterns. I just love to put them on and stay home. This is also my favorite strategy for avoiding SAD. You know, because Happy! See? Longer nights means more snuggle time.

     My annual routine for work follows the quarter system now. For the fall quarter, I'm very enthusiastic; I join committees and do research, plot out my lessons for weeks and months in advance, and make sure that I have at least one class of freshmen to welcome on their first day of college. In winter it's more of a settle in and run the race. Slow and steady. It's about routine, getting things done and meeting commitments. This is also when I work out any new materials for classes and invent something for spring quarter. Spring quarter is the hardest. Students and faculty get all squirrely. I don't blame them. March is a difficult month for me and by April with the advent of spring, everyone wants to go outside, feel the sun, go hiking and spring skiing, and relish the warmer weather.  Students mentally check out somewhere in April, and by mid-June when we wrap up, ugh, I'm ready for them to go. No new creative projects really happen for me in spring.

     I think I may be one of only two people who mourns the loss of winter. I think we had our last snow for the year last week.  All of the weather reports are in the 50s this next week. We didn't have any real accumulation this year! If I want to see real snow I have to drive up to the mountain passes. The other person who mourns is, of course, my husband. There's something exciting to waking up to a heavy blanket of snow, or a blizzard, and having to bundle up to go outside. Since we both walk to work, we get to tromp through small drifts and place our feet carefully lest we slip on a patch of wayward ice. This is also how I get my sunlight time every day. G works earlier than I do; he has to be in by 8.  When the sun is sleeping in and going to bed early, he risks never seeing it. So he sits and has lunch by a big picture window where I often join him. It's also a great place to watch the weather outside. Last week, my mother-in-law posted a photo of her trimming a rosebush. In Louisiana, it's in the 60s and 70s right now. The same day, I took a photo of our last snow, hoping it would stick around at least a little while. To tell the truth, though, I think today I'd like to see a little sun. Maybe it is time to think once again about the earth waking up and shooting up a few daffodils and snowdrops.

     With less snow and precipitation this year, that means there is less snow pack to melt off slowly during spring and summer. We're running the risk of another terrible summer fire season. Man, I hate to think of a worse fire season than what we had last year- it was the worst on record in Washington state. The first two summers I was in Ellensburg, I had to stay indoors and take real precautions because of the smoke. It's super bad for my lungs and the first year I caught bronchitis from walking outdoors. Fortunately, this last round with it went away really quickly and I'm back at my usual activity level.

    Oh! I almost forgot: My New Years Resolutions.  I have made a grand effort to be more social this last month. We invited friends over to the house one Friday, invited other friends to watch the ill-fated Superbowl, AND we met another friend out at a restaurant. All in January.  Am I done for the year? As far as my health is concerned, I had some luck last month with my running.  I made five miles in less than an hour- twice. So a pace of 11:15. Not fantastic, and not terrible. I'm happy with it. I also did my mile in ten minutes a couple of times.  I have to do all my running indoors now, and I've added in weights and yoga twice weekly. It's running and walking that really help to clear my head. That's also my best strategy for beating off any winter blues which may come to call. Ok, that and Nutella. If you've never had Nutella, it's a hazelnut-chocolate spread. One of my friends calls it a jar of candy. I say it's not. It's quasi-healthy frosting. Maybe not the best stuff to eat before attending my sister-in-law's wedding in March (can't wait!) but it sure is delicious.

Sigh- so much sun

It's raining through the sunshine

Not sure what's going on with my face. Look at the handsome guy instead, k?

Little bit O'snow 

Our campus has an awesome diversity office!

Don't think I'll ever get tired of this view

See? I had people at my house!

My Seahawks lost! Boo! There's always next year.

How is this winter?!

Barge Hall- the first and original building on campus

Five thirty on a foggy morning


1 comment:

  1. Okay. Now you can say there are three who love winter. The shorter hours do not make me sad either. I do enjoy a beautiful spring day (and looks like this week will be in the 70's), but I enjoy winter for the same reason as you do. Rest. Hibernation. I love my cozy home, and the summertime here means very hot weather and working in the yard.

    I could enjoy that view every day, too.