Every winter comes with its ups and downs, and the downs are not always on the slopes. Sometimes we catch a bug or a nip. Sometimes we get those winter blues. Sometimes it’s even not safe for us to be outside and take a deep breath. Those are my most down days I feel: when you look out your window in the morning and see… thickness. Those are the days where we must hunker down indoors, though we long for the out of.
What I tend to do on these days in order to build that down into an up is lean in. I’ll do chores, bake something, stew something up, and make the most of it. If I must be indoors, then by god I shall be indoors. I keep myself busy so that I am still doing something. But what does one do when it’s been days or over a week of staring out that window at the thickness? What does one do when the house is clean, more bread is imprudent, and the stews all begin to form a beige film on your palette? What do you do when making the most of it becomes completed?
Now, I’m sure for every person there are different strategies for these issues. Maybe some folks don’t ever run out of steam. For them, that must be lovely. For the rest of us, though, Plan B is truly where creativity can shine, can it not? For where does imagination come from when our habits can no longer be relied upon and we must remember a bit of play?
I have found that my Plan Bs on those lingering thick sky days are a countermeasure to my Plan A, naturally. What I have discovered, from peering about my home, is that when the air is so bad outdoors and there is no more work to be done, the next best thing you can do is be a dog in the sun.
Me and my partner have three dogs, and from them we get so much. Endless fur on our clothes, large vet bills when they chase porcupines, barrels of love, and life lessons aplenty. When the air is too poor out, even for our dogs who typically love running and wrestling about in the yard and on hikes, they all do one thing which for its naturalness makes incredible sense. What they do is they find any ray of sunshine which peers into our home, even if dim and gray, lie squarely within its frame, and sleep like they’re storing fat for spring. What this means to Plan B can be straightforward. Have I ever plopped myself on the carpet alongside the pack and also napped in the light which happens to peer through the smog? Absolutely. It’s delightful. I highly recommend it. It’s warm, and soft, and the gentle snores from all make it an especially delightful respite. But what this also means to me is to be cozy in the light. Natural when possible, lamplit when not.
In the day I’ll put on the kettle, make some tea, and do any work I must in the sun with the aroma of spring leaves seeping into my nostrils and pores. When the sun is poor and my work is through, perhaps I’ll sit under a good lamp, maybe even stoke a fire, I’ll have a wee dram of uisce beatha fresh from aged shores and pull up a good book. I’ll read about a land where the air is clean but the company kept not even fiction can muster better, for that is another perk of having dogs: the good ones are good company, and those that aren’t are not themselves truly to blame, and therefore are good still the same.
So, when you find yourself noticing that the air once more is beginning to yellow, which makes your blues turn to gray, do what you can to keep your mind at ease while giving your lungs not their daily dose of PM2.5 and 10. And, if you find yourself like I often do after these long winter stretches, of having a cost benefit analysis of mind or lungs, remember that there can be a Plan B. Remember, that you can also be a dog in the sun. Find a book, have a slow down, drink something hot, warm, or neat, and gather yourself to the sun. Find your square of white light on the carpet, and give it a lie. Soak it up, feel the warmth, and remember that even on those days where to be in the wilds of Utah would do more harm than good, good still always may visit you from the wilds themselves.
I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
Images: Courtesy and Copyright Katarzyna Bilicka, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Shalayne Smith-Needham AND J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin. https://upr.org
Text: Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org
Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly
Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/