The older I get, the more seasonal patterns become obvious to me. With each year that goes by, the same familiar emotions repeat themselves during the same times of the year. In my thirty-seven trips around the sun, I have now surmised that late winter is the absolute nadir of the calendar. This year, as in all other late winters, I have fallen ill, and not just for a couple of days. I have spent the last three weeks feeling like crap, but just well enough to have to go to work and endure the daily grind at diminished strength. After months of cold without sunlight, I feel drained and depressed. My patience is worn and my temper is short, even with the ones I love.
I define late winter as the time between Valentine's Day and the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament. (I find the latter to just as much a sign of the onset of spring as the equinox.) Late winter never fails to be interminably wretched. In late winter, sickness stalks the land, coughs are its soundtrack. It is also a time of year full of great psychological stress and emotional strain. At this point, the body's ability to handle the cold and dark of winter begins to break. Just when the sun starts getting up early again, daylight savings time comes back, and I lose an hour of sleep at a time when I need it most.
Even things that normally bring joy are absent or awful. In terms of sports, football is over, baseball has yet to begin, and hockey and basketball are still far from the playoffs. The holidays (Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day) are the absolute worst. The former is a manufactured event meant to sell greeting cards via guilt and treacly sentiment, and the latter is a drunken, insulting parody of Irish culture. Growing up a devout Catholic, this time of year always coincided with Lent, which meant that in addition to all the usual late winter crap, I was forced to deprive myself of something I liked in order to atone for my sins.
I propose that we make a new holiday out of an old one: the spring equinox. Even if winter has not finally been banished, we should have great feasts and jubilations, to welcome the sun's presence. We should get together with family and friends, and celebrate making it through such a treacherous, difficult time of the year. We shall toast, enjoy each other's company, and look forward to the warm months ahead. Who's with me?