PORT ANGELES, Wash. — A few days into the new year, I stood outside the house and stared into the darkness of a deep winter night at this far western edge of America – defiant on a bone-chilling eve.
It felt lonely and hypnotic here on the Olympic Peninsula, where a jut of land the size of Massachusetts holds an immensity of snow, surrounded on three sides by unknowable depths of gunmetal-gray salt water.
At this northern location, at a latitude equal to Newfoundland, it’s hard not to feel the seasonal blues in all their smothering inevitability. Because there were no big-city lights on the horizon, and clouds veiled a thin moon, the darkness had a particularly strong grip.
I wanted to get inside by the fire, to drink something strong, to eat something sweet, to find a bear’s den of deep sleep. If you live in the north, in places where the sun is an unreliable companion for many months, you can’t escape the urge to hide and hoard in winter.
But this year, I’ve decided to fight lethargy with logic, to welcome the new president, the babies just born, to see something other than closure, dormancy and loss in the annual dark season.
It’s tough, and perhaps absurd, to battle biological imperative. I crave light, pruning high up in the trees around my house to open more patches of sky, keeping the strings of Christmas luminescence hanging into January’s bleakness, checking the daily sunset tables for those few jumps of the clock that will hold back the curtain of night until 4:35 p.m., instead of 4:33.
07 January 2009
I love this man, Timothy Egan. Love reading what he writes, to myself, out loud to the people I love, giving his books and essays as presents, or sending links to his column in the New York Times. Like this one.