When I leave work now, the sun has already hidden behind the horizon. Summer’s death knell is softer here in California than it is back in Iowa, but it’s still palpable. The air is a little cooler as well, and my Midwestern bones are firing rapid signals to my brain telling me to start hunkering down for the winter. Even though here, in California, Mother Nature doesn’t blanket us with snow like back in Iowa, we still have a tendency to turn inwards during the cooler winter months, more frequently choosing nights in with friends and wine than nights out on the town. Or at least so has been my experience.
I tend to also notice a subtle shift in peoples’ demeanors… a slight change in their mood. Maybe it’s the fact that the gray skies evoke the winter season very strongly to those many people here who are, indeed, transplants from the Midwest and who are feeling the same emotions affecting me. Perhaps they have associations with this minute change in the environment and are also feeling the need to hunker down a bit. Perhaps they, as I, feel the need to turn inwards a bit more as one stays indoors more often, even here in California.
Living in Los Angeles presents an interesting viewpoint of winter, though, because the summer never seems to want to officially let go of its hold on the season. Even last week there was a heatwave, even after two weeks of rather chilly climes. But the Los Angeles winter exists, even in a place that has few seasons.
Unfortunately, winter also brings with it intense mood changes for me. While I don’t technically suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), I think all the years of winter equaling school and evaluating my self-worth via grades has imprinted themselves upon me, causing me to always doubt myself and what I’m doing with life. So thus, I tend to have rather violent mood swings, from hating myself and everything I stand for to being on top of the world loving where I am in life. It’s a rollercoaster I don’t wish upon anyone else. Don’t get me wrong—I know that everyone has mood swings, but I’m particularly prone to them and mine are not fun.
In a previous essay I said that winter is the Midwest is as such: “In these places winter’s teeth are more than just a figure of speech but jaggedly adorn every house’s eaves, icy spikes both beautiful and menacing, and the wind cuts through every shirt and sweater and scarf and coat in one fell stroke.” It’s not really hyperbole—but yet, there’s a certain amount of nostalgia associated with such winter.
Such bitter, bitter cold yet such warm, warm hearts of people.