Retreat

I noticed yesterday on my walk that though the daytime temperatures have not risen much above five degrees yet, the bird song is all spring songs and the quality of the light has changed quite distinctly.

I wrote the following poem a few years back after a rather haunting dream of being stalked by a polar bear….

Retreat

 

The fields of endless white

Spread further than the eye can see,

Grim mountains of jagged grey,

Still clad in silken swathes of snow,

The air so crisp it tastes of glass

And fills my mouth with blood.

A scent of stones fills the air,

Old and cold as passing time.

The crunch of paws though ice,

Breath like steaming clouds,

A stench of passing death,

The brush of icy whiskers

As Winter’s bear retreats.

I stand alone on the snowfield,

The trickle of the starting thaw

A quiet chuckle at the passing

Of the season’s snow bear

And the merriment of the new.

 

“Now is the winter of our discontent..”

Winter….

Don’t you just love it? The sparkling snow, the cosy nights in front of a roaring log fire, the sharp smell of frost and the icing sugar look on the trees? Love snuggling up in your favourite Araan wool jumper and settling down to a good book?

No?

Me too. Of course, those are all the pluses of winter, which I do like but they’re smal compensation for the misery of the winter blues. S.A.D (seasonally affective disorder) is becoming much more recognised these days and in some Scandinavian countries, where the winter suicide rate soars, you can check yourself into special SAD wards in hospitals if it all gets too much, for some light treatment.

It’s the lack of light that does it. I’m not precisely immune to cold but it doesn’t really bother me. Remember the Arran jumper? It’s the lack of light and those long cold days of grey skies just make my depression so much worse. I’ve got a permanent battle with the old Black Dog of Depression anyway but the winter really bites deep. Once I get to the Winter Solstice, I start feeling a tiny bit of hope as the year slowly, very slowly begins to turn.

Now in late January I can see a few more minutes of daylight every day and the birds have begun to warm up their preliminary pre-Spring territory-defending songs. But it’s still dark and cold and miserable and I don’t feel much like going out when it’s blowing a gale, raining or hurling sleet at me.

My armoury against the winter blues? I have a special light box that sits next to my computer screen so as I work here, I get some of the light I need. I didn’t use it last winter and it was much worse for me. And another valuable weapon is Badger Balm’s Cheerful Mind balm. This is a balm from the very special Badger Mines www.badgerbalm.com , almost all of which I have tried and loved, but this one works very well as an anti-depressant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a magic pill to take it all away and medicate you into a smiling zombie. It’s a simple balm made from extra virgin olive oil, pure beeswax and essential oils of: sweet orange, lemon, rosemary, spearmint, neroli, ylang-ylang, and cinnamon plus CO2 extracts of Calendula and Rosehip. It smells glorious and used on the skin as a skin cream is lovely. But as a mood balm it comes into its own. I use a little on the backs of my hands before I start typing, a little under my nose and some on my lips and temples. I carry a smal pot of it in my handbag and when I feel my mood flag, out it comes.

Not strong enough to affect those around you (good news for those with close associates who object to perfume) it lifts the mood gently but firmly. Applied regularly through the day, it’s a little lift when you need it.

Now for those who are unsure and who think aromatherapy is for the girls, bear in mind that essential oils work in a number of ways. The smell alone is one, affecting us in deep and sometimes unpredictable ways, but also the naturally occuring chemicals in essential oils have powerful effects whether we smell them or not. Some essential oils are known as anti bacterial agents more powerful than their synthentic counterparts. Some like tea tree are anti-viral. And some are known as anti-depressants. All the oils in the cheerful mind balm are recognised as anti-depressants. The most powerful of them in my opinion is neroli. Neroli is the essential oil taken from the orange flower, and is sweet but not oppressively so. I believe it to be one of the most uplifting fragrances going.

But the blend of oils used in this balm is so cheering and lively that each of the oils is perfectly in balance with the others and none dominates the overall fragrance. It’s not a girly fragrance, it’s basically a citrus and mint aroma.

If you’ve been struggling with the winter blues, try it.  It’s not expensive and it might be the  boost you may need.

Golden Brown

October arrived and with it the definite promise of Autmn. The chill in the air means the polar fleeces are coming out of their summer hibernation, but the Arran is still huddled up with the cedar blocks. It’s not that cold yet. According to the local weather forecast the temperature will drop as low as 3 degrees on Sunday night, so I need to make sure I bring in the tender plants from their summer holiday in the garden.

I used to love winter.

I used to like the drawing in of nights, the shadows that fell as I walked home from school, and the tang of smoke on the night air. I used to like the prospect of frosts and even more so, snow. It never bothered me that it was cold; except on a Saturday afternoon while my parents were off playing county hockey and I and my brother were turfed out of the pavillion to walk around the common until half time meant we might scrounge a quarter of an orange. Until we were old enough to be left at home if we didn’t want to come, Saturdays were nightmares in the bitter winter weather of the late sixties and seventies. Dad retired from hockey when the doctor said if he got hit one more time on his varicose veins, he might well bleed to death on the pitch and so, I got to stay home and read on Saturdays instead.

I don’t know when it changed.

I guess my own battles with bog standard depression and anxiety wasn’t enough but SAD had to muscle in and add a ha’pporth of misery to the winter. I try now, really I do, to cherish the changes in seasons; I make a big effort at things to mark the specialness of the season. I light candles at dusk, I use orange oil on the burner, I choose seasonal foods. I even bought some glow in the dark nailvarnish and black lipstick today for use at Hallow E’en; the lipstick makes me look like a wannabe goth who can’t quite make the grade, though.

But even though the trees are raining down confetti of golden browns and rich russets, I just feel dread. The light is dying and I feel like something of me is dying with it. 

I want to establish a new pattern for my winter living, where I sit at this desk with my special light on, and a burner simmering with anti-depressant oils, and music, and I just let myself write. Hang the chores for a while. Just let me have a few hours, an hour even, where I can create a light inside myself. I can see the first glimmers now in my mind’s eye, a faint will o’ the wisp, shimmering at the edge of vision: I am in my cave, making stories from the shapes the smouldering logs make as the burn to warm me and to warn away wolves and cave bears. I conjure faces and voices from the swirling shadows and the rising smoke and I mark the passage of their lives with the still-hot stick I rake from the embers, burning my hand as I try and write on the rough walls of my cave.

Ah, the story teller. Somewhere she’s waiting for me. My inner world may yet help me beat the crushing weight of winter.