Winter Darkness, Winter Malaise

Crows in Winter 1941 N.C. Wyeth(1882-1945)


Depressed? Seasonal or chronic? Both?

I’m seasonal. Cranky…irritable…overly sensitive…overly critical….overly snarky….
And I’ve got the slows. Like I’m wading through mashed potatoes. My brain is tired of thinking and I don’t want to do anything but drink coffee, eat cookies and chocolate until these symptoms disappear.

The world over, this is why in so many cultures, ‘the ancients’ invented a holiday to coincide with the dark cold days of winter. Call it what you will…

Were I to respond to the desires of my earthly body and ethereal spirit, I’d settle myself down for this long winter’s nap. I’d stop nagging on myself to get more things done, stop scolding myself for all I have not done, or done badly. I’d swath myself in flannel and get under a quilt.

And eat cookies.

In the Modern Era (ever wonder just how long the ‘Modern Era’ will last? and what we’ll call the next one?) we feed this Winter Malaise by engaging in online seasonal Retail Therapy on Amazon. Or if the weather’s not too frightful, we bump into strangers crowding the shopping malls looking for sparkly things to give to loved (and not-so-loved) ones.

And then we all fall into the longest sleep, dream in the darkness of winter and marvel at the mysteries within.

Resistance is Futile

And why should I resist? The sun in the Northern Hemisphere is approaching its solstice position on the horizon. About as low-down south as you can get. Minimal daylight hours; darkness falls before suppertime. I fall with it.

The Winter Solstice is upon us. Me. I feel its weight, dragging me slowly down into darkness, where all my stories, memories, my dreams and imagination reside. From here I will tell my tales in a new year, evoking the mysteries of the Universe that flows through us all.

I’m gone with it.


First Crow, First Raven, First Human: The Still

The following tale is the third in the series of tongue-in-beak stories I made up concerning the ancient relationship our species has had with the corvids-a group of birds whose most familiar members are crows, ravens and magpies. It seems as if Crow and Raven taught our species everything we know…

df6c072e1fe5a5ce7fc590df721af24cDriven to drink from the Garden of Eden

“What in the bloody hell are they doing down there, Cousin?” Crow asked.

The two birds grasped a branch in a tree which overlooked a group of hominids who were dancing and carrying on, singing off-key, laughing at the most inane jokes, staggering around saying stupid things and falling down. “Are they ill?” Crow wondered. “Do they need first aid?”

Fist fights broke out here and there, but always ended with a group hug, “I love you, Man,” they said to each other over and over again, tears running down their faces.

Then the puking started.

“They are ill,” Crow said. “Upchucking like that.”

“Them’re drunk,” Raven drawled. “Got into the hooch a couple hours ago.”

Crow stared at his cousin, “Drunk? Hooch? Where’d they get it?”

When Raven did not answer, Crow narrowed his eyes. “Oh, don’t tell me! Seriously? Are you an idiot? I can’t believe you sometimes.” He shook his head and pecked at the branch upon which they perched.

“What? Don’t look at me, Cousin.” Raven said blandly, “You’re the one that taught them about fermentation.”

“I taught them how to make sauerkraut, that’s all I did,” Crow was really irritated. “It was for digestive purposes. They were getting tummy aches from too much vegetable matter in the gut. A little lactic acid fermentation and poof! Tummy ache gone. No one gets drunk on sauerkraut. They hadn’t even progressed to bread yet. So, I ask you again, where did they get the booze?”

Amid the bacchanalia below, a group of females began a seductive dance, shaking their hips and smiling alluringly at the males. Catcalls and whistles erupted from the males while the old folks kept time by banging the bleached bones of a Big Hairy Beast together. Soon males danced with females and after awhile, the dance couples stole off into the darkness.

“So they have a good time, occasionally.” Raven avoided answering the question. He was sick of Crow’s negativity.

“They’re just blowing off a little steam. What’s the matter with that? A little partying never hurt anyone. Their lives are hard—you say that all the time. Their infant mortality rate is at least double ours, even in the best of times. They suffer a lot; I hear that all the time from you too, ad nauseum, Cousin. Give them a break! It’ll wear off.” Raven looked at Crow, who stared back in speechless rage.

“You would grudge them a moment of silly forgetfulness?” Raven continued. “I just thought a moment or two away from their otherwise miserable pathetic lives would really improve their morale. Why are you getting all bent out of shape?”

“You thought!” Crow stared at Raven in utter disbelief. “Please save me, save us all from your thoughts! You know what booze does to humans? It makes them forgetful and stupid. And mean. For cripes sake, the last thing we want is a bunch of mean, stupid humans on our hands. You know they only just barely made it through the Stone Age, finally. They have weapons. And now thanks to you, they have booze. Stupidity, booze, and weapons. Great combination. Let the carnage begin!” Crow was apoplectic, spraying spittle as he spoke and losing a few feathers that floated lazily to the ground.

“And who taught them to make weapons? Hmmm?” Raven said, enjoying the argument.  “Are you not responsible for unintended consequences of that fiasco?”

“I taught them to hunt food!” Crow said defensively. “I was helping them even the odds, remember? Remember when they first showed up naked? How cold and hungry and absolutely forsaken they were? Remember, they’d just gotten kicked out of the Garden of Eden.”

“I’ve only heard rumors,” Raven said darkly. “What’d they do? Maim a unicorn?”

“Well, no,” Crow said. “There was this snake, see, and he gave the female an apple, and when she and the male ate the apple, suddenly she was sore ashamed of their lack of fur or feathers, and they both covered up their stinky parts with leaves. That’s how we found them, remember? Shivering naked in the cold.”

“I remember,” Raven said. “And, not to drive this unintended consequences thing into the ground, after you taught them to sew, she develops this enormous sense of fashion and wants to wear new and  expensive clothes all the time. Nice job, Cousin! They’ve blamed a snake!” He chuckled heartily. “Well done!

A sudden silence wafted up from the ground. Crow and Raven looked down upon a pile of bodies. Crow looked at Raven. “Well done,” he said sarcastically. “Well done, Cousin.”

“Whatever.” Raven yawned. “They built a still on their own, without your unsolicited expert advice. Or mine. You know how good they are with their hands.”

Raven’s mockery bit into Crow’s flesh like buckshot. Paralyzed by his own anger, he nearly let go of the branch. “I had nothing to do with it,” Raven continued blandly. “Other than to answer a few questions, about the latent heat of evaporation, a little organic chemistry maybe. They didn’t get it, of course.” He picked a caterpillar off a leaf and noisily ate it. A loud explosion from the human camp below rocked their tree, nearly dislodging both birds.

“There she blows!” Raven cackled.