It’s not easy living in a black hole.
I’m sure there are blacker holes that lay further north than Anchorage, Alaska- poor unfortunate souls. But for all intensive purposes, I would define less than 6 hours of daylight as meeting official black hole criteria. I mean at present, we spend more time shrouded in darkness than light.
You wouldn’t exactly mistake January in Alaska for a bright and sunny place.
The sun officially rose today at 10:09 am and set at 4:02 pm. That’s exactly 5 hours 53 minutes and 23 seconds of daylight bestowed on us before the brilliant glow of the sunny star collapses and we are plunged back into abject blackness again. And when I say brilliant glow, I mean the sun hovers at half mast, never fully rising into the sky, so it looks like a perpetual parade of limp phallic mediocrity out there.
The sun never can fully get it up when it’s winter.
If you are lucky, you work odd hours or have a lengthened lunch break so at some point in the day you have time to stand outside and breathe the fresh, cleansing air of actual daylight and remind yourself that it does exist.
If you are unlucky, you work a 9-5 job and find that you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. You wonder if the sun has died and try and cheer yourself up at the prospect of comfort food, a big stack of books, and the knowledge that your ancestors lived in similar darkened states and somehow survived the lack of mood boosting serotonin production, so you can too.
You conveniently forget the fact most of them died young.
If you are a bear, than you are possessed of superior intelligence (at least when it comes to effectively navigating the sorry state of winter affairs) and you hibernate through the entire thing. You don’t emerge until you sense that a proper amount of light, which comes with the arrival of spring, has once again shone it’s way on your doorstep. Whereupon you make a sensibly timed entrance to the world of daylight.
Well rested from your winter slumber.
Bears get it by the way. There is a reason they nap all winter long and refuse to lend their furry presence to the black hole. They simply refuse to participate in such asinine circumstances. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Despite the lack of serotonin production, the resilient among us give winter a good go.
Skiing, fat tire biking, running in studded shoes, a nature walk.
You can be active if you put in a bit of effort and are willing to take the extra time to dress in layer upon layer. You realize you bear a striking resemblance to Ralphie’s younger brother in A Christmas Story right around the time you also realize you need to go to the bathroom and actually contemplate the merits of either holding it in misery, simply wetting yourself, or letting the ten minutes it takes to undress qualify as your workout for the day.
As you venture out onto the trails, you will find other Subaru driving users who all hold a mutual distaste for cabin fever, enthusiasm for fitness, and outdoorsy appreciation of nature. You heartily smile at one another, brave co-lovers of exercise who are willing to face the multiple layers, incessant ice and looming darkness for the joy of movement.
Even though, despite your front of fortitude, you secretly know both of you would rather be bundled up under the covers drinking hot chocolate or better yet on vacation in Hawaii.
Drawing on the sturdy values of the humble hobbit, you try and find light and cheer in whatever way you can to manufacture a little sunshine amidst the gloomy void.
Dressing in rainbow clothing and participating in kooky, well intentioned winter rituals becomes your regular January routine.
You head to your friend’s house for beach day with your bikini on under your giant sweater and fleece pants. Knowing that you are bound for an afternoon of tropical drinks, sun lamps, cranked thermostats, coconut candles, and the gentle dulcet tones and picture of the ocean gracing it’s way across a screen saver.
The darkness stays in frozen motion outside, but inside is a faux paradise, and for the love of all that’s good and pure you will enjoy your beach time and artificial warmth.
Pass the pina coladas please.
You throw crazy hat parties, have elaborate dinners, wear lots of cheery bright yellow and make it a point to look up obscure holidays just so you have something to celebrate in your serotonin reduced, need Vitamin D now, chronically bleak state.
Happy National Tempura and National I’m Not Going To Take It Anymore Day, by the way.
I tried to celebrate this morning by defiantly declaring to the Universe that I was done being an adult and henceforth deciding not to work. That lasted for about 5 seconds, and then I realized that somebody has to fund my rainbow clothing collection and drum up enough money so I can leave the black hole upon occasion and go to places like Hawaii.
Where the sun isn’t afraid to stand erect and proud, shining at full mast.
You practice the art of gratitude and attempt to look for things to fill a thankful heart.
You try and let your higher self run the show and open your soul to the unique beauty found in the sooty, jet black, winter world around you. You notice the way the snow crystals weigh down the bows of the trees. How luminous is the lovely crescent moon painting an exclamation mark in the sky. How the sky is actually shaded with midnight blue, deep navy, heavy smoke and thick ink.
All blending together to create the illusion of black hole, but reminding us that beauty, nuance and color does still live here if one looks a little closer.
Other times though, your poetic soul is not really in the mood for looking closer and (I cannot tell a lie), cake and wine trump resilience.
You decide not to care and simply add cake and wine to your winter survival toolbox of hat parties, beach days, friendship, bright colors, vitamin D supplements, and shoe studded running. You refuse to judge the utility and health of any of your tools, instead allowing yourself to take what you need on any given day in order to survive the hardship of life in the black hole.
You remind yourself that you are gaining 20 minute of daylight this week.
By the end of January the sun will be rising at 9 am, the amount of light you receive will be over 6 hours- maybe even 7(!), and Spring will start to seem like a distant reality instead of an urban legend composed by a bunch of delusional fanatics who finally cracked when they tried to get out and simply ran into the never ending edges of the black hole, realizing there was no way out.
In the meantime, one simply puts one foot in front of the other and embraces the hallways of darkness.
They don their 10 layers of outdoor gear. Try to find joy in the twinkling stars overhead. Remind themselves that Light and Spring are real phenomenons and not just deranged stories from the other side of the wall.
And make sure their cellars are stocked with wine and there is fresh cake at the ready.