The Harrowing Tale of How I Broke Its Dreary Hold
01/27/2013 6 °F
It has been a long time since I have faced a true Midwestern January. I’ve forgotten how long January can drag on. If you aren’t careful, the days can blend into an endless parade of gray skies, chilly temperatures, and too much time indoors. I wasn’t careful this year, and I lost my mojo. My mind seemed to turn as gray and cloudy as the sky. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t feel like writing. I put down my camera. I lost inspiration. I became a fleshy lump on the couch. Jim Harrison wrote it best, “It takes a lot of strength to keep January out of the soul, and this year I’ve failed. “
Well, January won the first four rounds, but I’ve rallied this week and I’m happy to say I have my appetite for life once again. This is how I did it.
Some Good Advice
For starters, I have listened to a lot of good advice this week:
“It is winter, so get in the flow of nature resting and rest a bit. Gather inspiration for the spring... I think people grow with the four seasons, at least I do.” ~ R. H.
“To go out of your mind at least once a day is tremendously important. Because when you go out of your mind you come to your senses.” ~ Alan Watts talking about meditation. In particular, how to use sound to still your mind, such as the sound of a gong or chanting.
“…There are times when I don’t know what I’m doing with my life or I don’t know what I WANT to do with my life. But, that’s ok. I remind myself not to worry - something will come along. I’m taking care of myself, I have a job and my health. It may not be the perfect job, but I’m happy enough…” ~Roughly paraphrased from L.S. This is Zen if I have ever heard it.
My nephew Rex and I decided to take a quick road trip down to Chicago to visit his sister (who is therefore my niece). We rolled south across the orderly flatness of the fields and farms of eastern Wisconsin. Wisconsin has interesting names for their towns, such as St. Nazianz, Sheboygan, Osh Kosh, Oostburg (why not add one more o?), and Random Lake.
The steam from the stacks billows out in thick clouds in the freezing atmosphere. Rex and I muse about how cool it would be to work as a cloud maker at a cloud factory.
“In the Conservatory with a Niece and a Nephew…”
In Chicago, we gathered at my niece’s pad for a couple of days. The three of us had one thing in common - the fact that none of us has jobs right now. Bound by our thriftiness, and angling for a place to get out of the frigid temperatures, we decided to visit the Lincoln Park Conservatory and Zoo.
As I step through the doors of the building, a tidal wave of warm humidity rolls over me. I feel hot moist air on my skin and breathe in the muggy air. I smell plants, wet soil, loam and decay. I can see a jungle of greenery as countless trees and plants fill the cavernous room. I hear the tinkling trickle of water running over stones. It is quiet. The few visitors hold their voices low in deference to the plants as if we were in a library. It is wonderful.
When the poisonous dreariness of January takes hold, the warmth of colorful flowers can be the perfect antidote.
Most of the animals at the zoo were spending the day inside. There were a few notable exceptions. A leopard paced around in the cold forming a long figure eight between two trees. A brilliant white snow owl perched high on a branch. There were a couple of eagles, two vultures and my posse.
The zoo was almost deserted. I enjoyed the walk. It’s not everyday I get to see a giraffe, monkeys, a hiphopopotomus, snakes, vibrant birds, otters, a polar bear, a leopard, a lynx, and gibbons in less than a mile of walking.
After the zoo, we returned to the flat. Shivering from the cold, we happily tucked in to watch “The Life of Pi” while sipping hot Irish coffee. It felt great to stretch out on a comfortable couch underneath a homemade blanket. I felt a nap tempting me, but the movie held my attention. My amazing niece then supplied some homemade lasagna for dinner and life became just a bit tastier than it had been.
Walking in the Moonlight
I could not tell you the exact moment I broke free from the powerful grip of January. I believe a variety of factors helped me escape. I was tired of the vacuum. I wanted to get mojo back, and I took several steps to help make this happen.
I had good conversations with no less than ten of my friends. Thank you all.
I made travel plans. February looks to be like a lot of fun. I’m heading to New York City for the first time. I might go skiing in Vermont, before heading to Florida. In Florida I hope to swim with manatees, take in long conversations with my friends, and talk travels with a seasoned vagabond. I’m excited!
I hung out with my family, which is good for the soul.
I started stretching my body. I noticed my breathing. I went for a long walk in the bright sunshine of the afternoon, and later in cloud veiled moonlight. I spent some time watching ducks forage in the lake. I listened to unseen geese pass over Lake Michigan at night. Their distant calls seem to me a welcome back to my senses.
It’s about damn time.