Note: Since writing this, I've added a bright light to my repertoire. It really helps!
It's not that I hate winter. The first snowfall is always beautiful, and I delight in the sight of bare trees, branches limned in frost. Hearing the snow crunch under my boots as I walk on a crisp January morning, or staring up at the brilliant winter stars, I rejoice in the variety of the Canadian climate. But not every day is a Christmas card.
I crave heat and sunlight in the dank, dreary, dismal depths of darkest December; crave them fiercely. Bad enough that the days are short, but when they're gloomy and overcast as well, so am I. My happiness and optimism levels depend on the amount of sunshine each day.
I'd hibernate if I could; turn my bedroom into a cozy den where I could sleep through the worst of the winter. Soft pillows, warm blankets, a darkened room. But I can't live off my fat like a polar bear. Sighing, I struggle out of the blankets each morning and find my way downstairs. Maybe a cup of coffee will give me the energy I need. It's hard to wake up before the sun does. And some days the sun never does.
I do have methods of coping. When I used to work in Toronto, I would spend sunny lunch hours perched on the stairs between the third and fourth floors of the office. The south wall of the stairwell was made of glass, and the heat of the sun pouring through was a mood-altering drug. While I've lost that window, there are others.
If I've been grocery shopping and left my car parked in the sun, I'll sit for several minutes, basking in the light, before I turn the key and head for home. Sometimes I join the cat and lie on the living room carpet, belly exposed to those warming rays. I keep all of the curtains open during the day, to let in as much light as possible.
By February, the dreams start, dreams of sunny tropical islands with blue-green water, warm sand and palm trees. And always warm white light surrounding me. Aaahh! I was disappointed when I travelled to Tobago and discovered that the Caribbean was the same boring blue as Lake Ontario, quite salty, and not at all warm.
There was one exception. We took a tour in a glass-bottomed boat out to the reef. I don't swim well, and I'd never snorkelled, so I was nervous. Floating on top of the water, looking down through my mask at all the brightly-coloured fish, I soon relaxed. The reef was a marvellous experience, but the high point for me was the stop on the way back to shore.
We anchored out in the bay at a spot the locals called the "Nylon Pool". The sea was shallow enough there that I could stand on the bottom, digging my toes into the sun-warmed sand. Waves as warm as bath water gently lapped around me. And the colour! This one small patch of sea was the blue-green of which I'd always dreamed.
It's only October, but the dreams have started already. I think we're in for a long winter.