Turning Inward

It happens every year—the battening down of the emotional hatches that occurs when the days get shorter.

In October it's not unusual that by six-thirty everyone has been fed and I'm locking the front door and heading upstairs. In contrast, at six-thirty on a July evening it's likely that I haven't even started preparing dinner. As the darkness comes faster I feel a need to gather everyone inside and be finished. I'm not afraid of the dark. Actually it's often quite the contrary. There is a sure and certain magic in walking one's dog on a cold December night-with the smell of the neighbor's wood stove in the air and it seems as if every star in the universe might fall at your feet. But I feel a need to have my day's work completed by nightfall—to protect everyone from an uncertain darkness—to have them all under my wings. So the days are sometimes rushed. I have to fit it all in less time.

While I traditionally struggle with energy levels and mood issues when there are fewer daylight hours I also look forward the traditions involved in preparing for the long winter. Obviously we have resources available to us that make it so we don't have to put up enough food for the whole the winter, but I think much of the emotional hunkering down I do is leftover from days when preparing for winter was a matter of survival.

There is usually a new sweater on my needles. And the slow-cooker comes out of the garage (although this year it never actually made it back into the garage). Much of the cooler weather activities in my house center around cooking. Efforts are made to stay connected while the natural meeting of neighbors is reduced. We snuggle closer for warmth. And we'll laugh and cry and be grumpier than usual and manage—until the days slowly begin to get longer again.

How do you prepare for winter in your home?