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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Beyond the winter solstice

Now that winter has officially arrived in the northern hemisphere I'm wondering how everyone is doing.  The changing seasons and weather extremes are known to increase Fibromyalgia symptoms and pain.  Couple the colder weather with more activity than usual through the holidays and the result can spell disaster in the weeks following.  Even if you paced yourself the disruption of your usual daily schedule may lead to increased pain and fatigue.  I'm thinking that most of you are probably wiped out.  In addition, the shorter days have an effect on our bodies as our brain receives less daylight, which triggers a hibernation response.  When shadows grow long a sort of melancholy sets in.  The lessened daylight signals to the brain has an effect on neurotransmitters, those chemical messengers responsible for our feeling of well-being.  I am reading more and more research studies involving the neurotransmitters.  Neurotransmitters are the focus for so many chronic illnesses, which may be the critical key that will unlock the mysteries associated with chronic illnesses that currently have no cure.  Meanwhile, we must manage our daily symptoms during these bleak winter months that follow the winter solstice.

Male Northern Cardinal
I have always celebrated the winter solstice with great enthusiasm.  Despite the fact that winter is in its full glory there will soon be signs that spring is emerging, promising new life.  In the northland where winter is long it is especially important to watch for those subtle signs of spring.  In late January the male cardinal begins to sing his song in the tallest treetop perch, already staking out his territory.  He is easy to spot in his lofty perch since all the trees remain dormant and are leafless . . . and after all he is a brilliant scarlet bird that dares to taunt the predator hawks and kestrels while in such a vulnerable position.  He sings urgently
with the knowledge that spring is coming.  That beautiful scarlet bird that chooses his mate for life is the true harbinger of spring.  Look for him east of the Rockies and south of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He is preparing now for his early spring ritual.

Snowdrops
Beneath the insulated blanket of snow the perennials are also preparing to emerge.  Few dare to poke their heads up through the safety of their domain.  The harsh, frosty winds would certainly mean their demise as the temperatures dip below zero.  The hardy Snowdrops is the exception in the plant world.  This small, unassuming plant heralds the coming of her companion perennial plants as she boldly pokes her head above a snowy safety blanket.  She bows her diminutive head above the snow with a white bloom that provides camouflage within her wintry stage.  This isn't a showy event and it is easy to miss for the unobservant eye.  But the sight of one Snowdrops bloom emerging shyly above the snowy crust is an unexplainable thrill when winter stretches from weeks into months.

Now that it is January and we teeter on the edge of spring that is so near and yet seems so far away and just beyond our reach, we need to look for harbingers of hope to pull us through these bleakest months.  Our power of observation must be acutely tuned in to identify those subtle signs that most people miss.  When the Chinook winds blow and then retreat from the icy grip of an Alberta Clipper, we must continue to bask in the Chinooks within our mind.  Those balmy breezes are a preview of what will soon be.  Have you noticed the icicles dripping in the sun's warm rays despite temperatures in the single digits?  As the shadows begin to grow shorter and the days grow longer, the sun slowly begins to thaw the frozen landscape, but catching up with winter's momentum takes time . . . time that may appear to be in suspended animation.  Remember those harbingers of hope that herald in lifted spirits, retreating pain, and a small burst of renewed energy.  Blessings to you as you hone your skills of observation for those earliest signs of spring . . . be well!


Credits:  Male Cardinal - The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Snowdrops - BBC - Nature, Dripping icicles - Alaska-in-pictures.com
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