A few days ago, though it was sunny, the temperature on my back deck read -24 C. The snow squeaked in protest, if you stepped outside, and was difficult to move— even to make a narrow path for my dog, Danny, to make his way into the garden. Lucy, the cat, gave up on the outside world and wouldn’t go near the door at all. Elsewhere in the province the temperature has dropped to – 40 C. These quoted temperatures do not take wind chill into consideration, which can lower temperatures by over 10 degrees. Warnings about frostbite have been ubiquitous.
Cold temperatures seem to slow us down, freeze our joints, make us creakier than usual and more somnolent, readier to give up, even things we like doing, and retire to bed. Now, if we could all just hibernate!
On Monday morning, I heard on the radio that the third Monday of a new year, is called by some, Blue Monday, and is supposedly the most depressing day of the year. Roll on Tuesday, I say. Anyway, the designation is a myth with no scientific backing, apparently initiated by a travel company to encourage people leave all their troubles behind them and fly to a “happier” destination. But since the January blahs are often exacerbated by the arrival of bills, that are the result of impulsive purchases during the Christmas holidays, this seems an unlikely cure for the blues.
Other contributors to our lower spirits at this time of year are said to be gray, cloudy days and shorter daylight hours. Some are so badly affected that they suffer from a recognised medical condition, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
However, this January many places have had a fair number of sunny days and clear nights so that on January 21stit was possible to see the eclipse of the unusual super blood wolf moon from countries across the world. This event provided some wonder and excitement, was photographed by thousands and watched by millions, whether they stood outside or watched it on an electronic device. The beauty of this process overrode any negative connotations sometimes associated with eclipses or its name. In folklore, the January moon is often called wolf moon, a reference, perhaps, to the increased howling of wolf packs as they ready themselves for the mating season, mark their location or warn off other packs by singing to the moon. Another explanation is that the howling marks the paucity of food at this time of year. Though super moons occur several times a year, a combination of the eclipse, which turns the moon golden or red and the super moon in January, month of the wolf moon is very unusual. The next total lunar eclipse will be on May 26, 2021, and may turn the moon blood-red from some points of view but, of course, it won’t also be a wolf moon. This special event provided a much needed distraction from the troubles of January, meteorological, financial, or sociological, which threaten to overwhelm us every day. May be it is one of the best ways to deal with wintery depressions—become interested in matters outside ourselves.
That plan might well include astronomy, which has long had the power to adjust our perspectives and restore our sense of wonder. Here’s another possibility—take another look at your favourite artists, even if it is only in a book or on film, or read more poetry old and new to renew your own ideas of the beautiful. When the weather allows, get out there and enjoy the variable winter sky, the snowy woods and the icy lakes or whatever nature offers you where you live. Palm trees and beaches maybe?
Another thing carrying me through January is my decision to do something I’ve never done before. I’m taking an on-line course, which is stretching my computer skills, sometimes I think to breaking point! But so far, I’m just about making it, which gives me a great sense of achievement.
Indeed, I thought I was dealing with winter fairly well, until someone reminded me yesterday, that our winter lasts long past January, through February and most times, March… No wonder, we all yearn for April, hoping it won’t turn out to be “the cruellest month” this year!