Darkness, Light, and Food for Thought
Well, the depths of winter have finally settled in. I'll be leaving for the sunnier climes in Arizona in January, but for the rest of December I am in cold, snowy Colorado. Being a sensitive soul makes me susceptible to stimulus from the environment, and the short cold days bring out the worst of my Seasonal Affective Disorder (Seasonal Depression). Lack of sunlight effects my brain chemistry in a bad way. Did you know that sunshine as medicine is real, scientifically based stuff? (If you find yourself feeling depressed during the winter months, you might want to look into light therapy. It really helps me.)
Before I started migrating south, I dreaded this season. (Winter in the desert involves a lot of sunshine. Kinda cheating, but hey, I’ve earned this!) In the past, by December I was skidding down a hill and fearing the dark cold months that felt like nothingness, until spring showed signs of coming back in March. I don't produce much art when I'm depressed. The drive and inspiration isn't there, and then I feel twice as bad because I'm not creating. Over the years, I’ve learned to allow myself to shift with the seasons. Rather than fighting it and feeling defeated, I accept it as the Fallow Time. Being a driven, hyperactive person, this has not been easy to do. Here are some truths that I’ve come to live by: Give yourself permission to not be productive. Give yourself permission to sleep when it's dark. Give yourself permission to be sad. Quiet the inner voices that call you lazy and replace them with kinder, gentler ones. Most of the natural world hibernates and becomes inactive this time of year, so why shouldn’t you?
Because of depression and other issues, the holiday season has always been tough for me. Some of my self-work entails wading through the darkness to find light during this time, and I’m getting closer. Slowly. It’s taken a long time to build a healthy relationship with this season on my own terms. I’ve shifted away from modern society’s definition of “The Holidays”. To me that’s fraught with obligations, shopping, advertisements, pressure to buy things that no one really needs. Now I choose what makes this season important and special to me personally and immerse myself in that. I skip the gratuitous shopping and make things for people (and together with people) instead. Cooking has become a big deal for me this time of year, and I pour my creativity into that. I celebrate Yule (the winter solstice) in ancient northern European traditions that make me feel connected to my roots. I allow myself to become immersed in the darkness (literal and metaphorical) and celebrate the rebirth of the light during the solstice.
What's your experience with this season? Do you love it, or dread it? Do you deal with depression when everyone seems to be happy? Share what it means to you, and what traditions you find joy and comfort in (if you do). I’d love to hear about your experience, too.
I just came across a wonderful gem. “The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook” is a memoir disguised as a cookbook. Her lifelong partner was Gertrude Stein, the famous American writer who, along with Alice, hosted salons in their home in Paris for the leading figures of modernism and literature during the first part of the 1900’s. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m looking forward to reading about their long and loving lives together, as well as the traditional French recipes.
One of the things that appeals to me about this book is that Alice “was a critic and connoisseur, more interested in preparing food, tasting it and passing comment on it, than in consuming it.” I totally relate with this. I love to look at food, read about food, cook it, and share it with others. My guilty pleasure is watching food porn shows on the cooking channels where they almost elevate food to the level of sex by obsessing about it and filming those long, close-up shots of irresistible morsels. I bet Alice would have watched, too. Ah, what I'd give for a cozy night curled up on the couch with Alice and Gertrude, watching "The Best Thing I Ever Ate".
Amateur Food Porn
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Artist, homesteader, teacher and adventurer. Turning over every literal and figurative rock that I can find, living curiously and creatively outside of the conventions of the common world.
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