Thursday, December 2, 2010

These New Winter Blues

I am rolling toward a cliff as the brake pedal smoothly and easily meets the floor. Bills and expenses are the gathering downhill momentum. The cliff is the end of lobster season and income. The brakes just aren't. White knuckles don't make anything slow down.

I am not alone on this ride. Riding shotgun is my old pal Johnny Self-Loathe. "What're are ya doin'?" he says with a grin.

"You're living in a wild and crazy place you don't belong. You've been completely financially derelict without even having any gambling debts, girlfriends, power boats, motorcycles or expensive chemical recreation to show for it. You have a law license and a lobstering license and work 360 days a year and can't make money, can't get health insurance for your kids. How do you pull it off?!"

Johnny sings in a shiny gold jacket with his eyes closed behind the black shades, one hand on the microphone, one fist chest high pointed upward, elbow knifing down. He sings These New Winter Blues.

December 1 is warm. It looks no different than the end of November which was also warm. Knowing that we are into December brings mixed emotions. Confused yet terrified. Discouraged yet panicky.

I took the last 6 potatoes from the garden, together with a handful of chard and one lovely little onion. That's it for this year. It is hard not to feel like it is the end rather than a recess. I know the land needs to recharge, but I'm scared.

I think winter began scaring me when I was in middle school and we had a Glenwood kitchen woodstove in the kitchen as our sole source of heat. Winter felt like a prison sentence with execution stayed until daylight savings ended. Confinement, constant cold. All my memories of those years appear as night time. I came to truly dread winter. Spring felt like clemency.

Some years later I realized that the only way to beat those blues was to get out into winter. It was not macho fear-facing, but just a realization that neurochemically, it's happier to be outside moving around in the cold and warming from the inside. Eventually I came to really love running in the cold, even in wet snow or winter rain. The feeling of cold outside and sweating inside was pretty much a cure-all for the staleness and depression of those months.

Now there are new blues. Uniquely tormenting to a sternman with a wife, three kids and a mortgage is the finality of the end of a lobster season. That's way worse than seeing the last 6 potatoes and one lovely onion. The end of the lobster season means a sternman with some attachments has probably banked 36 hours' worth of winter survival money.

The New Winter Blues will require some remedy. I do not know what it is. Flight? Grow up and get back in the box of a mainland job? Winter fishing jobs? Hunker down, pray and eat spruce bark and boiled leather? Johnny's a great performer and a lousy mentor. Love the jacket and shades, though.

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