Some things in life are standard, the same for everybody. Like money. A quarter is worth twenty-five cents wherever you take it. And time. An hour is an hour, no matter how fast or slow it seems to pass.
But seasons are relative. In elementary school we were taught there are four seasons, but it’s not necessarily true. In my homeland of North Dakota, some say there are only three seasons – Almost Winter, Winter, and Winter’s Almost Over. Think cold, frozen toes for most of the year. Some North Dakotans would add a fourth season, known as Road Construction/Mosquitoes. But North Dakota should get credit for something. There’s nothing more beautiful or energizing than frost-covered trees sparkling in the brilliant sunshine of a sub-zero day.
I spent ten years in the northwest, where there were only two seasons – the Cool Rainy Season, and the Warm Rainy Season. I wasn’t a fan. For weeks on end the sky was like a gray bowl inverted over the landscape, and I was sure the sun had been snuffed out of existence. Or it would come out in all its glory, only to disappear in a damp sunset five minutes later. I would have welcomed one of those cold, sunshiny days of my childhood. Life in the northwest was bleak, weather wise. The natives didn’t mind it, though. They broke out shorts and sandals when the temps hit 50, and felt the two weeks of summer, when it hit 80, were much too warm.
Now I live in California, which for all its warts, has glorious weather. You can endure a lot of troubles when the sun is shining, and when your feet aren’t frozen for months at a time. Here in California we have three seasons – Christmas, January, and Summer, also known as Sandal Season. I’m in love with sandals, and live in them for as much of the year as possible. It’s a sad November day when I realize Sandal Season is over. All my sandals and open-toed shoes are perched mournfully on the shoe rack, and it’s time to switch to socks and shoes. I’ve tried dashing to the store in a socks/sandals combination, but it’s not the same, and it looks dumb.
The end of Sandal Season also means cloudy, rainy, shorter days. I find the
whole gloomy thing hard to take. In fact, a few years ago I discovered I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which might sound like an imaginary condition for wusses, but turns out to be scientific. Some of us don’t produce enough serotonin (the happy hormone) on our own, and need direct sunlight to give us a boost. Reduced sun means increased depression. The winter I discovered I had SAD, we had a three-week stretch in January when the sun was continuously hidden. I felt dreadful – lethargic, sad, weepy. One gray, sunless morning I woke up sobbing. I was pretty sure I was going crazy, and so was my worried husband, who seldom worries about anything. He offered me a blank check for finding someone to help me. One afternoon the sun finally appeared. I rushed to the back yard and basked for twenty minutes, after which I felt incredibly, unbelievably better. Life was worth living again. I was euphoric. Then I was terrified. How was this possible? Maybe I really was losing it.
A Google search assured me I was perfectly sane. I read the symptoms of SAD, and mentally checked off each one. I learned that some people use anti-depressants, some people use full-spectrum lamps for a few minutes each morning, and some people who’d suffered for months felt better in as little as twenty minutes in front of a lamp, or sitting in the sun. Yes! A full spectrum lamp was soon on its way to me.
So you see that Sandal Season is much more than a fashion issue for me. Sandals equal sun. Sun equals feelings of happiness. And for me, the happiest day of December is the 22nd, when the sun reverses its retreat and the days start getting longer again. Sandal Season approaches, and it makes Christmas that much better.