Hello, all. It’s SAD season again. No, I wasn’t saying “sad” extra loud — it’s the time of year that many Southeast Alaskans start to feel a tinge of Seasonal Affective Disorder; if not the actual medical condition, then the general clumpy layer of it that flops, like a blob of cold oatmeal, into our collective consciousness. Now, wait, before you go off and stare glumly at the red spot over Orange County on the thermographic weather map, there’s good news.
See, one of the two things that people always say about life here is that the weather is depressing, but the people are so friendly, and I’ve always thought that there is a correlation in there somewhere. And by “in there,” I mean indoors. Because, let’s face it, there are many days where there is nothing to do outside. Sure, you have your runners, your fishermen, or your staunch bike-taxi drivers who will brave typhoons to do what they love. However, all but the extremely outdoorsy of us end up spending a lot of time inside, trapped by the damp monotony of the incessant cold drizzle. However, the saving grace of all this rain is that we’re encouraged to find hobbies, and the communities that form around them. I think that’s one of the great contributors to the neighborly spirit of this place. It is here that we become, if you will, the Insiders of Southeast.
I’ve come to terms with it. I’m definitely an insider. That doesn’t mean I don’t love to do plenty of things outside — it just means I’ve come up with defined ways to cope with the 300 days of gray. I suspect you’re probably an insider, too, or an insider in the making. The only people who can’t be are the snowbirds, who have instead found a clever way to enjoy the brightest times of life in Alaska and also in the southern hemisphere where they take up seasonal work as tropical Bond villains. Or golfers. I’m not sure, actually.
What type of insider are you? I notice that my friends and I typically fall into the same eight or nine categories. When things start getting mucky outside, we turn to what comforts us the most. The first variety are the Readers. My friends who are Readers (enthusiastic film watchers count as well) love nothing more than to curl up on the couch with a book, no, a stack of books and just start eating through, top-down. They typically prefer tea over coffee, and their dream house includes a giant fireplace. If they ever gather, it’s at a Perseverance play or Goldtown Nickelodeon, to see the latest incarnation of “Much Ado about Nothing” or “Jane Eyre.”
After the Readers come the Gamers. Also included in this category are the legions of internetizens who make their homes online. Often the Gamer is a lot like the Reader, but is more likely to have a digital community they associate with. My friends who are Gamers are actually far from reclusive, and many find the opportunity for community that the internet provides to be a great comfort in the darkest times of the year.
Next, the Musicians. I think I’m guilty of this one. With the dedication of a Gamer, and the social life of a Reader, we often watch the sucker-holes close up while practicing scales or jamming to YouTube lessons. Musicians often gather to perform together. It’s a beautiful synergy, whether in the symphony, or in Folk Fest. Many Musicians justify the hobby as preparing as part of a team. It’s like sports, but for your hands. And with less Gatorade.
One of my dear friends is definitely what I would call a Crafter. She makes things, all sorts of things, with impressive regularity, and she makes most of it when it’s sprinkling outside. The hallmark of a Crafter, includes chefs, is that they create things using other things. Yarn becomes hats or gloves, which she gives to me (thanks!), and squash becomes soup. A Crafter’s community is often a class, like decoy-duck-making, or a group like a knitting circle.
Are you a writer or an artist? You might find an overcast sky and a lack of exercise to be the ultimate writers block, or you may find it to be the perfect inspiration. You’re more likely to gather in the more metaphysical sense, via collaborations and publications. However, you have your physical events, too, like Sound and Motion talks or poetry slams. You’re more individualistic than a Musician, and unlike the crafter, you make something out of nothing.
Alright, enough of this artsy stuff. Yeah, it might be too warm to snowboard, and the softball season just ended, but some of us focus on the individual physical sports like weightlifting or rock climbing. We’ll call these the Gym Members. Out of all the ways to spend those days that drip like old slushy down the window, this might be one of the most effective at combating the Solstice Blues. Regular exercise helps you stay mentally as well as physically healthy, so there’s nothing wrong with incorporating a little of this into your other routines.
I know the dark times of the year can feel like they last forever. Besides guitar and Netflix, I also work to fortify my winter life with plenty of vitamin D supplements, good food, good music, and a “happy light” (look it up). But I think the main takeaway is that, however you spend your boredom, if you have any, you’re probably not the only one working on it. Also, if the Seasonal Affective is getting a little too “affective,” know that you’re one of many who feels that way, and try seeking help through the Juneau Mental Health Directory (juneaumentalhealth.org) or even, if possible, by taking a trip to sunnier climes. No one could blame you! Anyway, I hope you feel inspired to go hone your hobby or find your community! Did I miss your favorite community? Let me know!
• Guy About Town appears the first and third Sunday of every month and includes seasonal musings on what changes and what doesn’t in a small town. Guy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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