By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Sometimes, like last weekend, when I was watching yellow butterflies and guys driving their vintage convertibles and motorcycles around the Mesilla Plaza in 70 degree weather, it’s hard to remember why I always feel like hibernating in January.
My older sister Sally once noted that it’s not true that you forget moments of great pain, like childbirth, because of the happy memories that follow.
“That’s why we each had just one child,” she opined.
We have similar feelings about our PTWSS (Post-Traumatic Winter Stress Syndrome).
If you’re born and grow up in the frozen and gloomy Northlands, the urge to hibernate runs deep this time of year, even if the weather can be almost balmy where you now live.
After walking on the beach in bathing suits during seven years of Florida Januaries, it’s only logical that I should have completely forgotten my urges to crawl into a cave.
In fact, I’ve now lived almost half my life in temperate, even tropical, lands.
But I don’t need postcards from the front lines to remember doing hard time in frigid climes. When I see e-mails of my Michigan brother Tom and sister-in-law Mary in their snowsuits, my mind and soul instantly flash back to horrors of the past: long wintery walks to school, frozen breath and nose, that January at Michigan State when the snowdrifts arched to the second and third story window of our dorms and kids broke their legs, jumping out.
When Dr. Roger e-mails me that Iowa temperatures have dipped to 17 below, but maintains that “real men don’t wear longjohns,” I immediately e-admonish him: “Yes, they do! Protect your assets!”
When my son is snowed in for nearly a week in the Pacific Northwest, I remember those crippling mountain country ice storms, nearly as frightening as the Mt. St. Helen’s volcanic eruptions, and those long, long winter months of drizzly, dim-lit angst, when so many succumbed to Seasonal Affective Disorder, depressed, Vitamin D deprived and chronically crabby.
I think of my friends in Santa Fe and relive my last winter there, which lasted from October to May. I remember the dry, frosty, bone-aching cold, skidding on icy mountain roads and getting stuck in the adobe mud thaws.
People talk of the beauty of winter and I remember a magical Christmas with the cousins at our grandparents’ log cabin resort, with deer lingering picturesquely in the snowfields in front of frozen Lake Margrethe.
And then I mourn for all the wildlife trying to survive this brutal winter. How can Bambi and his mom and dad, or any mammal, survive record cold temperatures that have plunged to minus-46?
I try to explain to natives of gentler lands why caves and cocoons are so appealing this time of year, why it’s hard to talk me into a group hike or even lunch on winter weekends. When you grow up in the frozen tundra, only masochists make plans to go outside when they don’t have to.
January is supposed to be a time of new resolutions and new beginnings, but in fact we are also dealing with a lot of cleanup, maintenance and unresolved issues this time of year. While getting together tax info, bracing for that post-holiday weigh-in, and contemplating spring cleaning, we must face up to harsh realities.
This is true even during weeks like this one, when global warming has smiled on our high desert January, with sunny, bright blue skies, and unseasonable warmth, when a new president has been greeted with hope, optimism and a yes-we-can spirit that’s incomparable in my lifetime.
Of course, President Obama not only did not get the customary honeymoon period generally allotted to our new Chief Executive, but he is also starting the “marriage” with a battered bride pregnant with another guy’s septuplets ... in the middle of a record-hard winter that poses so many cruel challenges and dilemmas, so many wars on so many fronts.
When those dark cave-retreat impulses threaten, I suppose, we can start out by being grateful that at least we do not have to be President. And maybe that will help us summon the courage, skills, energy and determination to help him and ourselves, to remember that the only constant in life is change, and that spring and summer always come around again.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org