March 29, 2019
I used to struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I can't pinpoint the exact reason I don't get the winter blues anymore. I used a phototherapy light for 4 years and that seemed to really make a difference. But I stopped using it last year, I just kind of forgot. And based on last year's successful emotional winter, this year I kept the light in the box, and again I was fine.
More or less.
March is still my emotional thorn in the flesh. I can't seem to escape a low spell in winter entirely.
But it's not about winter. I've come to love winter in Quebec.
I've always lived in a winter land, my farthest foray south was two years in New Jersey, south of my Canadian homeland but part of the American Northeast.
I grew up on the Alberta prairies with loads of winter, lived nine of my adult years in Maine, an icon of wintery weather in the American landscape. But I didn't start to really enjoy and embrace winter as an adult till we moved to Quebec.
By the time we moved to Quebec my toddler-parenting years were done, no more bundling kids to get outdoors everyday, freedom! We became a skiing family (for 2 seasons we even lived at a ski hill!) and I slowly equipped myself for all forms of skiing and snow sport. I am now the most geared-up member of my family with skating, snowshoeing, alpine touring, classic downhill and cross-country skiing at my disposal.
Winter, for me, is now a time of beauty and fun. And I don't ever want to live in a place in which there's no snow, and specifically no skiing, in winter.
It helps that the winter season in southern Quebec is not a full six months, like it is on the prairies or farther north. Snow in October? No thank you.
But the Quebec cultural ethos around winter has also influenced me.
In the 1960's Gilles Vigneault, a Quebec nationalist poet, publisher and singer-songwriter was commissioned to write a theme song for a film being produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Vigneault ended up writing a Quebec national anthem of sorts about the one thing that unites Quebeckers, despite language and political differences. Winter.
Titled, Mon Pays (My Country) the first line of the song is this:
Mon pays, ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver
My country, it is not a country, it's winter.
This has been shortened by some, myself included, to winter is my country.
As a Canadian, growing up on the prairies, then spending eleven adult years in the northeastern United States (birthing 2 American citizen babies while I was there), living the last eight years in Quebec (with no plans of leaving this politically complicated francophone province) winter is my country is about as close as I come to statements of nationalistic ferver.
I love the rolling mountain winter landscapes of Quebec, the ski hills and all the snow. I haven't had a strong sense of "home" as a place since leaving Alberta as a twenty-three year old wife and new mom, but winter mountains come close.
Even with loving winter I start to get really restless in March. It's a type of cabin fear. I start planning summer activities, looking for lightweight fiberglass travel trailers on Kijiji, watching YouTube videos about living in cabins in the woods.
I find myself desperate to get out of here. Wherever "here" is.
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