This winter, Abbotsford turned to ice. For two days straight, frozen rain fell from grey skies, covering trees, roads, and cars in a thick layer of ice. Shops closed early in fear of not being able to return home at the end of the day, giving the city an eerie feeling, like everyone had packed up and left town. Later, power lines fell from the weight of the ice, and cars slid into ditches off slick roads.
I remember on the second day, after the lights flickered and fizzed out, sitting in the dark for an hour before deciding to go to a friend’s house where I could cook and sit in front of a fire – I was the kind of cold that permeates your skin and seeps down into your bones. Packing up some supplies by candlelight, I felt heavy, as though someone had draped a weighted blanket over my shoulders and stapled it in place.
Even after I’d warmed up and spent time with friends, drank hot chocolate and told ghost stories, the feeling insisted on staying. And it’s not that I’d never felt this way before – I’ve struggled with depression off and on for much of my life – but this was different somehow. Maybe how’d I’d learned to cope in the past wasn’t working, or maybe something other than a chemical imbalance was going on. Either way, all I wanted to do was close my blinds, curl up in a blanket, and stay that way til spring.
The sun came out the next day, deceptive in the way that winter sunlight is, illuminating the damage. Power lines hung limp from their posts, and tree branches had split under the weight of the ice, falling into the middle of the road. At my university, 20-year-old cherry trees were destroyed beyond repair; they were removed in February. Even now, four months later, you can still see the effects the storm had on the landscape.
Only once spring timidly appeared, bringing with it the first crocuses and snowdrops clustered together beneath the broken trees did I relate how I’ve been feeling back to the ice storm, and by extension, nature. Sometimes I forget how closely we’re tied to the earth. This is our home – of course its moods are going to affect us too, how our best friends or lovers moods tend to creep into the corners of our minds.
And this isn’t a surprise to people who live with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Because of the drastic drop in available daylight when the days begin to get shorter, those dealing with SAD experience low mood, lack of motivation and energy, and decreased enjoyment in things they used to take pleasure in.
But, as someone whose mood isn’t often affected by the seasons, this was new to me. In the past, winter storms brought my great joy. I’d curl up by the window with a book and a blanket, checking intermittently to see how much snow had covered the ground since I last checked. Why was it that now, the short, dark days made me want to hide in my room until spring?
To be honest, I don’t know. My best guess is that I’m becoming more in-tune with myself and the earth. Even if that means I’ll be feeling down in the colder months, I’m okay with that.
Now, it’s May, and the honey bees are buzzing contentedly amid the bluebells and alyssum blooming in the front yard, and robins swoop into fresh-cut grass. The damage from the ice storm is still visible, but it’s lessened somehow now that the sun has come out with force. And, happily, the weight on my shoulders has disappeared. Maybe all I needed then was some sunlight.