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Posts Tagged ‘sun’

A full year has come and gone since Hannah and I started Ditch the Umbrella. In that time we’ve reflected, mulled, and written about our emotional calendars, and, hopefully, gained a deeper understanding of what boosts our moods and where our emotional hotspots lurk. But now that we’ve completed a full seasonal cycle, we’ve completed our original mission, and so we will be concluding our little experiment. This will be my last blog post, and Hannah’s final reflection will be coming soon.

I, at least, have made changes to the way I live because of these little revelations: last winter, my worst season by far, I had such a bad case of cabin fever that I resorted to a frenetic and uncoordinated evening playing my roommate’s DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). This year, in an effort to prevent bad dancing, I’ve joined a gym so I can have an outlet for my energy when the days are short, the nights frigid, and the sidewalks nearly unwalkable.

The DDR incident, as I’ve come to think of it, taught me that I need to find ways to enjoy the winter sun, even if my face becomes an icicle. So this year, I plan on returning to cross country skiing, and may even try some winter hiking. (But only if I can start a snowball fight somewhere along the way.)

And I’ve started cooking, and cooking seasonally — enjoying fruits and vegetables when they’re naturally fresh (though I’ll still eat winter tomatoes, even if they’re nothing like the tomatoes Hannah rushed back to the States for) — and synching myself with the cycles of New England in that way.

But most importantly, I’m aware of my hotspots. Of the energy I feel in the fall that propels me to go-go-go, and to have an adventure. Of my weather obsession, which I no doubt inherited from the women in my family. Of my need to travel in the summer, or feel like I’m missing out on something. Of the amount of sleep I need to feel well rested and ready to go, especially when the hours of daylight are limited. Of the joy the holidays bring me with their carols, gingerbread, pine, and good cheer. Of the frustration I feel in the middle of winter, when I just can’t think about slipping on ice yet again. And of the things I can do to make the most of these experiences, and to revel in the joys each year brings.

Thanks for reading.

Late afternoon on the rails, Peru

Weather: Cloudy and unseasonably warm. Over 60 degrees in Cambridge.

Mood:

Anna: 6 out of 10. Energized, but slightly sad to be saying goodbye to DTU. A bit nostalgic.

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it's summertime!

This is the time of year when things start to change.

One day, there’s frost on the ground, ice in the streams, and dirty piles of snow melting at the edge of the parking lots. The next day, it’s seventy degrees and the sun is shining and, more miraculously, the dead trees that line the streets suddenly start to look like something out of the lorax.

This is the time of year when things start to change. Remember being in school? This is what the air smelled like in the afternoons in the weeks before summer vacation started. It is the smell of Fun Day, and final exams, and those neon ice pops that squirted out of their plastic casings.

When we become adults, the world tells us to suppress the instinct for change as best we can and soldier on as if the year were not dynamic, and cyclical. Fortunately, Anna and I are doing no such thing. Anna is moving with the IPI office to a new, shinier and substantially hipper space. There will be no more racing to catch the train, and no more reverse-commute into the suburbs. It’s an exciting time.

As for me, I’m about to embark on a more long-distance venture. In two weeks I will be departing Somerville for a week in Rome – and if all goes as planned, I don’t expect to return until August. But never fear! I’ll be tracking my emotional calendar from abroad, and filling you in whenever I find myself within internet access.

How are you embracing your desire for change this year?

Weather: Sunny and warm.

Moods:
Hannah: 8 out of 10 on the ‘can’t get out of bed’ to ‘jumping to joy’ scale. I just ate a really great ice cream cone. With sprinkles.
Anna: 8 out of 10.

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Oberlin College Campus

My college campus - three weeks a year.*

I remember as a kid visiting the Harvard University campus with my aunt, a div-school alum. We would walk past students sprawled out on patches of grass, books splayed out around them. This must be what college is like, I thought. Green grass, sunshine, and really good books.

The truth is that most of college was nothing like that at all. Most of college, as I remember it, was late nights in the basement of the library and an oppressive cloud that hung over campus, making everything monotone and miserable. College in Ohio was great for many reasons, but for most of the year, weather wasn’t one of them.

The only exception was the last three weeks of the spring semester. Unlike Massachusetts, where the spring arrives slowly and hesitantly, in Ohio the warm weather comes all at once. One day it’s forty degrees and raining. The next day, it’s seventy degrees and sunny, there are flowers on the trees, and the smell of summer is in the air. On Friday afternoon in spring, student DJs would set up on the lawn and the student union would bring out coolers full of beer. It was good enough to erase all memories of winters past and convince you to return the following year.

Today is the first really warm day of the year: the sun is out, and the temperature is somewhere in the seventies. Generally I prefer the cooler New England springs to their Ohioan counterparts, and I don’t really miss being a student. But on days like this, I always feel nostalgic for my college years. I find myself filled with a sudden desire to abandon my responsibilities, find a good book, and lie out in the sun.

Weather: Technically, only 66 degrees.

Moods:
Hannah: 7 out of 10 on the ‘can’t get out of bed’ to ‘jumping for joy’ scale. loving the warm weather.
Anna:  6. She’s happy about the sun. Less happy about the amount of work she has to do.

*Photo credit to ideastream.org, from an article about marketing.

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Ever since Daylight Saving Time in March, my energy has skyrocketed, refusing to cave under the snow and rain. Either that or I’ve magically stumbled across the perfect combination of sleep and coffee intake. Given the timing, I’m inclined to think it’s DST- and not caffeine-induced.

The extra hour of sunlight renewed my spirits, optimism, and energy. Life seems brighter, especially as I look ahead at my spring/summer calendar and start planning sandy weekends away.

Even during the winter I have plenty of energy. I don’t get home until 9:30pm many nights, get up the next morning, and do it all again—without turning into a zombie. But in the spring and summer, I’m far less likely to get frustrated by T transfers and long walks home, and less likely to shudder at the thought of a completely booked week.

Then there are my Energizer bunny friends. They possess unflagging energy year-round, energy that puts my schedule to shame. They sit on six committees, run marathons, compete in triathalons, work 12-hour days, and still maintain robust social lives. They even fit in yoga.

The difference between winter and spring, or Daylight Saving Time and the dark months preceding it, is that I’m far likelier to (attempt to) match pace with those Energizer bunny friends when it’s sunny. Which leads to my next mission: before next winter, find out what their perfect sleep/caffeine combinations are and start experimenting!

Weather: Gray skies with off-and-on rain.

Moods:

Anna – 6 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale.

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Yesterday, at about 7 o’clock am, Somerville caught on fire.

I was walking to the gym, pushing my way through sidewalks heaped high with snow (and leaping over the occasional puddle or slick of ice) when the sun suddenly slipped over the horizon and Wednesday’s snowstorm turned brilliant in the reflected light. The trees, already frosted with snow, turned pink. I looked east down the major avenue by my house and the Boston skyline spread out before me. It was beautiful.

As a kid, sunrises were the sign of a special event. On family vacations we would all get up in the pitch black, blearily dress and pile our luggage into the car and drive off to our destination, hoping to evade the rush-hour traffic. I remember waking up in the back seat, wrapped in a blanket, and watching the sun rise over the highway. I remember feeling its warmth on my face and realizing that I was on my way to an adventure.

As an adult, I have become a sunrise chaser. I’ve caught sunrises at the Galilee in Israel and over the pampas in Argentina; I’ve driven recklessly down one-way streets in search of an eastern horizon on St. Croix, USVI. One all-time favorite memory involves climbing a mountain in the dark and the rain with a fellow sunrise chaser. Our purpose was to catch the sunrise over San Martin de Los Lagos, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. We sat down on a rock overlooking the lake and pulled out a thermos of hot tea that we had lugged up for the occasion – only to realize that it was raining. There was no visible sunrise at all.

But yesterday’s sunrise was special because I didn’t have to chase it at all. It caught me unaware and, beautiful in itself, reminded me of so many beautiful sunrises past.

It also alerted me to the fact that the days are getting longer. Morning is a half-hour earlier than it was in December. I know January feels long and cold but at least I know that things are getting brighter from here.

Weather: 20 degrees and so gray you can’t tell the snow from the sky.

Mood:
Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. Looking forward to a sleepy weekend indoors.
Anna: Is in Athens. it’s 55 degrees and sunny and she is most likely sitting in front of the parthenon and drinking a glass of wine before dining on olives, lamb, stuffed grape leaves, and other delicious things.

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Crane's Beach, Winter 2008

If you live in New England, it’s easy to forget that the start of winter is a cause for celebration.

Here’s why you forget: there has been a heavy cloud cover for three days straight, a permanent layer of ice is slicked on the sidewalks, traffic is backed up all the way down route 2, it’s cold, snowy, wet, and unpleasant.

Here’s why you should celebrate anyway: it’s hard to imagine, but the worst is actually behind us. This week’s solstice marks a sunshine turning point. Previously, the days were getting shorter – we hit nine-hour days this week. But now, each morning comes a little earlier, each night starts a little later, and pretty soon I won’t be walking to the T in the dark.

Last weekend I went to Crane’s Beach, a stunningly beautiful refuge in Ipswich, just north of Boston. It was an entirely disorienting experience to walk a long stretch of sandy beach in the winter. The sun was shining. The waves were sparkling and the ocean was blue. The sand gleamed invitingly. I ran down the boardwalk and took off my shoes.

It turns out that walking on damp sand at thirty degrees is much like walking on ice. Instant agony. I put my shoes back on.

But it was beautiful, even at negative degrees Celsius. Instead of seaweed marking the high-tide line, there was a thin layer of ice. Palm-sized clam shells and snails were scattered across the beach. Seagulls shivered in the wind and grasses dressed the dunes in their winter shades of gold and red.

The sun is coming back, and that means there will be more opportunities to go out and appreciate the stark beauty of a New England winter. It’s the best time for some seasonal embrace.

Weather: 33 degrees and overcast

Mood:

Hannah: 6 out of 10 on the “can’t get out of bed” to “jumping for joy” scale. I haven’t packed yet for the holidays.

Anna: Anna is on vacation today so I’m going to go ahead and give her a 10/10. Happy Holidays!

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One glance at my mood rating over the past few posts, and it’s obvious that, perhaps, I’m (momentarily) regretting signing up for 3 committees, 2 subcommittees, and a myriad of other engagements this year!

It would be one thing if I were just going to meetings after work. That would be manageable. My plummeting mood, though, was not caused by meeting overload, but by the fact I had so many meetings while continuing to search for a new roommate. The joys of roommatehood and Craigslist…

So far, the search has lasted three weeks. The first batch of candidates seemed fun, friendly, and responsible, but alas, 75 percent of them weren’t even able to move this month! Terrible luck. During the second go-around, there were also some strong candidates, but nothing worked out. At some point, I realized the chances of getting someone in for a November 1 start were slim to none. And that’s when my stress peaked and I started to panic.

I thrive on a good dose of stress, but once I go over my personal stress threshold, I feel terrible. I still do what I need to do, but everything becomes a chore. I shed my optimistic tendencies and morph into a seemingly-eternal pessimist.

This past weekend, when I realized I would have to scrap my November 1 roommate timeline, I ventured out to run an errand and, of course!, got pelted with raindrops. Even the sky was gloomy!

During a separate super stressed out moment, I went for a walk and—instead of gray skies—witnessed the most vibrant sunset I’ve seen in months. My optimism increased, and I paused to think about how strongly my mood is tied to the weather.

For me, at least, the weather seems to impact my emotional state when I’m already experiencing a more extreme mood. If I’m closer to my default state of general contentedness, weather seems to influence it less. I’m not sure if this is typical, so I’d be curious to know, how do you think weather affects your mood?

Weather: Overcast with a strong breeze. Rain earlier in the day.

Mood:

Anna – 7 out of 10 on the “so miserable I can’t get out of bed” scale. Things are looking up since I accepted the fact a roommate by Nov. 1 is a pipe dream. Something about reframing…

Hannah – 7 out of 10. She’s lonely at the office. Does someone want to throw pebbles at her window and cheer her up?

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