My mother phones with advice. “You need more Vitamin D,” she says. “Take some cod liver oil. You won’t get enough sun.” I can’t argue with her prescription; D is after all the sunshine vitamin. And I’ve already learned how hard it is to keep the winter doldrums away when I’m bathed more consistently in shadow than light. Personally, I don’t look good in gray.
I’m not there yet, but seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is certainly a viable threat to anyone living in the Pacific Northwest. In the winter, the fewer daylight hours — mixed with more rainfall and persistently overcast skies – are toxic to the generally upbeat.
People with SAD can experience real depression, but who isn’t affected in some way by the seasonal changes? It’s nearly dark by 4 PM now, and though our agent warned us of the perils of living so far out, we’re practically hermits. Our social interaction has dwindled to just a few animal friends, who seem mostly preoccupied with keeping warm, dry or fed — and mostly somewhere else. If we didn’t feed the birds, and indirectly the squirrels, they would have abandoned us long ago.
Rainy weather is less than exciting to explore in. It puts a real damper on long hikes and safe driving. I may not be SAD, but I’m certainly unmotivated to get out and about in it.
Just a week ago the Pineapple Express dropped in and — without so much as an aloha — dumped nearly 3 inches of rainfall in five days. (It felt like six months.) I enjoy a good rain once in a while but this one, accompanied by high winds and milder temperatures, left behind as many clouds as it blew away.
While I’d prefer this to snow, snow at least brightens the scene. Gray is flat. Even evergreens look dull in unflattering light.
The Pineapple Express refers to the meteorological phenomenon characterized by heavy rainfall and warmer temperatures often associated with places like Hawaii. In some cases torrential rains plummet the region causing massive flooding and mudslides.
On the island, we don’t have a lot of rivers to flood, but Orcas is geographically diverse and all things above sea level flow to the sea. We’ve learned that apparently a major artery to the sea is our driveway.
On the second morning of the recent downpour, several inches of water rose to our doorway. The rainwater had loyally followed the winding drive to the carport then weaved its way down the walkway, cascaded over the steps and filled the stoop. (Our winter emergency preparedness, including candles, soup and flashlights had not prepared us for flooding.)
Fortunately we had on hand several garbage bags, a pile of wet sand, a pickaxe and a disposable skillet. While S used the pickaxe to make a deep groove in the landscape away from the steps and bailed the water, I filled every garbage bag we had with sand and redirected the racing stream away from the entry steps.
The seasonal rains are far from over, but we’re now better prepared to deal with some of the issues. The encounter at the front step, for example, taught us several things about flood control:
- It’s easier to fill garbage bags with sand than it is lift garbage bags with sand;
- Beyond 3-4 shovels full of sand, garbage bags split — no matter what brand you use;
- If you run short of bags, use the plastic wrapping from a multi-pack of Charmin. (Like the econo-size from Costco.) It’s durable, can easily be moved – though admittedly doesn’t have the finest curb-appeal. (The pastel colors do draw attention.)
In addition, we’ve discovered a unique upside to the gloominess of our rainy days: almost anything can brighten your mood, including an unexpected sunburst, a full moon over the ocean, the emergence again of snow-capped peaks in the North Cascades, the discovery of a neighbor’s Christmas tree tucked amongst the shadows.
OUR STOOP IS DRY, THOUGH DARK, AND WE’RE STARTLED TO HEAR A KNOCK AT THE DOOR. I switch on the light to see in a red Santa hat someone we know only as our island delivery man. He has been here many times in the last nine months and knows the drive even in darkness. Tonight we’re happy to see, he’s bearing gifts from afar.
“Ho, ho, ho,” he says, handing me two boxes, one of which I know for certain includes wine — yet another thing which brightens a dark day.
S and I exchange a few holiday greetings with him, sign for the boxes and as he turns to go, he motions to the sandbags, which include one brightly colored Charmin bag. “Had a little problem?” he asks. We laugh and offer him a brief rundown of the events — underscoring, of course, the importance of our ingenuity under pressure.
“Next time you’re delivering out this way,” I say, “bring sunshine.”
© 2010 Susan Anderson and “Away here.” Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Additional photos © Orcas Island Photos.