Feeling low, daytime fatigue, carb cravings, and a constant, overwhelming desire to get back into bed: as I read through the list of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) symptoms this morning I wondered if what I’ve been feeling for the last few days is merely a side effect of dragging my feet through the first week of January, or if it goes a little deeper: is this what the winter blues feels like?
When you combine Vancouver’s dark, dreary weather and short daylight hours with being cooped up in the basement-level editorial department all day, my lackadaisical approach to just about everything begins to make sense.
Thankfully, a story in the Straight’s February 21, 2002 issue by writer Jack Christie reminded me that the antidote to feeling glum isn’t far off, especially when I live in such a picturesque part of the world. The notion that soaking up sunlight and expansive vistas can cure the blues is one that we must be reminded of.
Here’s an excerpt form Christie’s story, “Panoramas a Winter Panacea”:
“Consider this: with our eyes wide open, we can only take in about a third, or 120 degrees, of life around us. Small wonder, then, that during winter we feel cooped up at home, where walls close us off even more from the bigger picture.
"Unlike on the Prairies, where the horizon stretches off on all sides, West Coast viewpoints are often constricted. The uplift of mountains and forests presents a visual challenge. One solution is to search out panoramic locations where maximum daylight pervades even when the light is filtered through low clouds.
"From a therapeutic perspective, 30 minutes spent outside provides as much stimulation for our sun-starved brains as a day spent under a neodymium light fixture (the kind of light used to treat seasonal affective disorder).”
Christie continues by listing off suggestions “for easily reached destinations where your eyes… are guaranteed ample input, enough to arouse even the drowsiest constitution.” Here are three of his picks, and a few of mine to act as suppressors of the blues.
1. Howe Sound from the Queen of Capilano
Jack Christie’s not wrong when he writes that the flattest, widest vistas are found either on or beside the ocean. If you spend the hour-long ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island’s Snug Cove on deck, be prepared to take in moving views of more than just the ocean: the string of peaks that make up the Lions have never looked better.
2. Whytecliff Marine Park
If a ferry ride is out of the question, the views provided by the landscape at West Vancouver’s Whytecliff Park are a fine runner up. Just around the corner from the Horsehoe Bay ferry terminal, Whytecliff is a waterfront nook with stunning views of the bay and its surrounding area. The park offers two kilometers of walking paths, and enough ocean air to get those creative juices flowing again.
3. Iona Beach Regional Park
The Fraser River meets the ocean at Richmond’s Iona Beach, where rows of driftwood and low brush are a sure change of scenery. The Plexiglas shelter at the tip of the jetty offers the perfect spot to sit and contemplate your insignificance, and if you’ve got a four-legged friend that needs walking, a leash-optional trail will give you both the freedom you need.
4. Wreck Beach
Prudes needn’t panic: in the winter, most ignore the “clothing optional” signs that line the 500-step trek down to the water. Lined with tall evergreens on one side and expansive, seemingly never-ending ocean on the other, Wreck Beach is a favourite of mine in the winter. With the exception of the odd exercise enthusiast, it’s a spot that promises solitude amidst a bustling city.
5. Siwash Rock at the Seawall
Sit on the rocks beneath Stanley Park’s legendary rock outcropping at the edge of the seawall and look out towards the coastal mountains, to North and West Vancouver, or further yet towards Vancouver Island. Let the sound of the ocean crashing around you wash away any fear that this winter will last longer than previous ones, and know that in a few short months, the sun will be setting at a decent hour once again.