Darkness Takes Over

When I moved up from sunny California, I experienced something different, which I relive every year. I moved up here in February when the skies were clear, the air crisp. Even though it snowed in April, while I was stringing a fence for Dante, the real change didn’t happen until summer.


In the height of our summer months, it’s light outside until late into the night, as in 10:30 to 11 pm! That’s crazy. And the sun rises incredibly early, like around 5 am or something silly like that, which means it’s light out before then. It makes sense: the further north one is located, the more sunlight in summer one should expect. As a result, we struggle with sleep. Our bodies are trained to rise and fall with that big glowing star in the sky.

There’s a flip side to the seasons: dark winters. Darkness descends early, and battles the sun every morning for dominance. Opposite to summer sleeping troubles, slumber is only too easy in winter. Even those of us who are early risers by nature (people like my mother), struggle to get out of bed come November. We’re tired. All of us.

You know how Starbucks got its start in Seattle? Yeah, that’s not a coincidence or a shocker. You can’t travel down a street here without running into a coffee shop, we even have drive-through espresso stands. Our gas stations supply caffeine, and advertise it with street signs and loud window displays. Come, fill up your tank, re-energize your mind.

Summer Guilt

When summer eventually comes around, we’re overcome with joy and vitamin D, and spend every free moment outside, basking and burning our pale skin in the warm sun. It’s gorgeous here in August and September, and those of us who can be outside, are. All the time. Too much, actually. It gets compulsive after a while, and it’s almost a relief when there’s a cloudy day amongst the bright and beautiful. Ah. Finally, clouds. Thank goodness, work can be done. If the weather is crappy ten months out of the year, you feel guilty for not spending the good days outside. Therefore you can’t get anything productive done. Work takes a back seat to just sitting outside. When I lived in my apartment, I’d take Riley for several walks in a day. I’d just wander around, trying to be in the sun. Once I lived on my boat, I’d eat all my meals in my cockpit, and just sit out there with nothing to do, or take something outside to read. My work schedule had to change: I’d get up as early as 3 am to start work so I could be done by 10 or 11 am, and enjoy the rest of the day out of doors.

Winter Hibernation

This blog is filled with summer sailing adventures. After working early in the morning, getting things done, I’d celebrate by taking the boat out sailing, or clean the boat, work on it, bring it into dock to fill the water tank, whatever. If I didn’t sail, I’d ride my horse, or take Riley for multiple walks in a day. In winter, though…not so much.

I usually start my day with two pots of coffee. Around nine, when it’s warm enough to venture out, I take Riley (who is lazy and prefers to rise and fall with the sun, just like his mommy), for a walk. Sometimes I have to get him out of bed, he’s such a sleepy-head. It’s cold, so the walk is quick, then we’re back aboard. I might brew another pot of coffee, have breakfast, and get some more work done.

Kickboxing happens at some point during the day (thank goodness for this, it’s keeping me from getting too sedentary, staving off laziness and obesity). Perhaps there’s some shopping for one thing or another. I also interact with other humans, so I can maintain my verbal communication skills. Those can get rusty.

You get the point.

The other night, Jonathan (who has Christmas lights on his boat!) and I were watching Lost via Netflix, and we both start yawning around eight (or earlier…okay, much earlier). It’s a struggle to stay awake, as darkness falls around 4:30 pm, so our bodies are ready for sleep at about 6:30. Jonathan made this comment: “In summer, we did cool things, right?” I laughed. Yes, in summer we were cool. We stayed up past nine. We sailed. We had adventures. In winter, though, we’re like old people, and being under 40 years old doesn’t make a difference. It’s a huge celebration to stay awake past nine. Youth means nothing when it’s dark and cold outside, and warm and cozy inside. On average we say our goodnights at about nine, I take Riley for his final walk for the night, then head to my boat for a ten hour sleep. Or more. Rarely is it less… But this shouldn’t reflect upon my character. Everyone in Washington struggles with the darkness.

Not All Bad

I love Christmas. In fact, as I’ve been writing this blog post, I’ve been fine tuning my Christmas playlist on Grooveshark.com. Sorting through songs kind of makes me want to go see The Nutcracker this Christmas season. I’ve really got the bug bad this year. The lights, the holly, the pumpkin spice lattes (the pumpkin anything, for that matter), that feeling of warmness, morning frost, the smell of pine, I love it all. My church is gloriously decorated with trees speckled with golden lights, candles, poinsettias, a nativity scene, and advent wreaths. The choir sings O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, Silent Night, What Child is This, and if I’m lucky, O Holy Night (my all time favorite Christmas song). It’s bliss.

So even if I’m in bed by 7:30 some nights, having the cozy Christmas spirit is worth it. Of course that means come January, when all the fun holidays are over, I’ll be bitchy and ready for warmth and summer again. But until then, I can enjoy my lazy, dark winter.

What about you? How do you cope with northernly winters?

By Courtney

Courtney Kirchoff is a published novelist, graphic designer, dog and horse lover, and lots of other (hopefully good) things. She lives in the greater Puget Sound area in Washington State with her lovable shelties, Riley and Margo.