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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
There are a few days each year where I realize exactly how dark the darkness of winter was. And suddenly I become like a moth to a flame.
Most of the time the darkness doesn’t really bother me and I don’t exactly notice it. Sure, I think about it in passing a little. If I’m taking my kids to something after school, for example, I might think about how dark the road there is at 5 p.m. Or if I’m waiting and waiting for the sun to rise, I might notice how long it takes for that to start. And there is a day or two in January where you feel sluggish and decide that you just don’t care about things you usually care about, and you suddenly know that the darkness is going to require that you try a little harder than during the days of light.
But otherwise, the darkness sort of creeps in on you over time. And, at least for me, you only really notice that it was there at all when it starts to go away.
And then there are the days where you really comprehend that long dark winter.
The first is in February. Suddenly the sun is just so in the sky and you have to wear sunglasses while driving for the first time in ages. It makes you want to crank up the music and roll down the windows. Of course, when you do roll them down and feel that still icy blase, you roll them right back up again. But the feeling was there. And the grin lingers.
The next, for me, is a day sometime in April that i call the “day blinding light.” The sun comes up just so in my back yard, and blazes into my desk window. For the first time in months I have to move the curtain to cover the sun glaring into my eyes as I work. I avoid taking that step for a day or two, because I am so glad that the light is back. But it becomes too much, too long, and you have to pull the shade a little. You know the light is back.
The other days are close together, and they just happened. First is the first morning, usually in early to mid May, that you step outside on a weekend morning and realize that the crisp or cold blast that’s greeted you for months simply isn’t there anymore. The air, instead, is warm and sweet. It smells like things growing. It feels like hope. You find excuses to spend the day outside, and while you’re there you see your friends and neighbors doing the same thing. The outdoor concerts have restarted and you’re there, bundled up just a little, smiling at all the people who have joined you in this seminal moment of the season. No one says what’s happening beyond “what a nice day! but everyone intuitively knows.
Next there is the first day where you are not awake for a moment that isn’t a little bit light outside. That happens later in the season for me than for some people, because I get up really early. But when I come up my stairs and see the sky beginning to glow with sunrise, I know that the light is completely back. Things are growing. It’s time for my favorite season.
Not long after that day is what one local Humans Outside follower recently told me their family calls “green day” — the day the leaves on the trees have fully unfurled and everything isn’t just hinting at life or mostly green, but GREEN and here. They predicted their Green Day would be Mothers Day, and I have to mostly agree. I went for a run along a 6 mile out and back trail against the river for the first time since last fall, and green is still creeping in out there, but it’s in full display closer to home.
The experience of darkness over winter — especially a winter as long as ours was this year, with its sub-zero days starting in October — makes you appreciate the light more. I think I feel that an extra amount because I spend so much time outside in all seasons. The weather and I have become friends, and I know how to anticipate its rhythms and movements — and it’s tolls and gifts. No matter where you are, the gift of the spring and early summer is that of light and life, and if you miss it by not stopping a little to appreciate it, you are missing an opportunity to really understand your place in it. That, at least, is how it is for me.
It doesn’t have to be complicated, either. This week it looked like taking indoor tasks outside — dinner, Saturday morning work catch up on a table pulled into the shade by the fire pit, runs outside instead of on the treadmill, pulling the gym equipment in the yard, opening up the windows.
I’ll be out here like a moth to a flame, basking in the warm light of spring and the return of green. And you can see all of my pictures from these outdoor moments on Humans Outside on Facebook and Instagram. What are you up to? Tag your photos with #humansoutside365.
Until next time, I’ll see you out there.