Weary Of The Dreary

by Mary Richmond
Hellebores bloom in winter and can perk up a dreary winter garden. MARY RICHMOND PHOTO Hellebores bloom in winter and can perk up a dreary winter garden. MARY RICHMOND PHOTO

It’s that time of year when everywhere we look on Cape Cod we are confronted with dreariness. The sun has been hiding for weeks, rain and sleet have taken turns dribbling from bare tree branches or slamming into window panes like tiny bullets. The ground has been slippery from either ice or mud, but it hasn’t mattered which, the walking in some areas has been treacherous and tiring.

February is a shorter month than most but somehow it stretches like a rubber band. It bounces back and forth between being a tease and a bully. One minute the sun is shining, luring us into thoughts of spring and planting our gardens and the next it is squelching those dreams with snow or sleet or just more gray and cold that seeps into our bones and makes us miserable.

Generally, I am not a winter hater, but this winter so far has outdone itself with days and weeks of gray, damp dreariness.

If you look up the word dreary in a thesaurus you are rewarded with a wonderful list of depressing and forlorn words, including depressing and forlorn. There is sad, somber, lonely, dismal, dingy, drab, dull, monotonous, wintry, tedious, uninteresting, colorless, boring, uneventful, and bleak. Whomever wrote this list may have experienced a Cape Cod winter, just saying.

The dreariness of winter is worsened for those who are housebound or unable to walk the beaches or woodland paths. The constant palette of gray can wear on one’s good humor and the damp can exacerbate any tendencies toward arthritis, never mind depression. For those recovering from illness, the cold, damp, uninviting weather can serve to emphasize negative thoughts and feelings.

Getting outside is the best medicine I know for the February blahs, but not everyone can do that. If you know someone suffering this winter, maybe make time for a visit. Bring some homemade soup, some brightly colored flowers, a book with a happy ending. Take them for a ride, if possible, to a nearby beach or pond. Just sit and share a cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and watch the world go by.

You’ll find many people just sitting in cars and trucks at beaches these days, watching the gulls and ducks. They may be taking note of the tides coming and going, dreaming of summer days when they can go shellfishing, fishing, swimming, or simply lounging in the warm sand.

For those who can get out, the weather can be a minor inconvenience, but once out the movement will help warm us up. Walking the beach on a windy day in winter can be challenging but also invigorating. It can do wonders for those of us suffering a bit from dreariness.

A bird feeder can provide many hours of enjoyment and entertainment. Watching the winter birds flit back and forth enjoying the banquets you have provided is fun for you and good for them. If you’ve planted native plants, shrubs, and trees you will find even more birds taking advantage of your largesse. Flocks of robins and cedar waxwings are still busy stripping all available berries from juniper, holly, and other berry bearing trees. Watch, too, for the hawks that follow the flocks, for they must eat as well.

If you’re a gardener, you may be getting seed catalogs in the mail. I can spend many happy hours planning gardens I will never plant, never mind harvest. I love looking at all the possibilities, all the pretty flowers and delicious vegetables and fruits. I often pick at least one new addition to try in this coming summer’s garden. Some work out and some don’t, but the relief of the humdrum hours of a dark and damp winter is well worth it.

In the end, dreary is a state of mind. It’s up to us to find ways to lighten our moods on these somewhat dismal days. For one thing, days are getting lighter on both ends now. It’s no longer dark at four in the afternoon or even six-thirty in the morning. The sun is higher in the sky and the song sparrows are beginning to think about singing as dawn breaks each day.

Owls are courting and so are the coyotes. Spring is preparing herself backstage already. Our first migrants will arrive in just a few weeks.

Go look for the right whales that have recently begun to arrive in the bay. Provincetown and Sandwich beaches are always good places to spot whales at this time of year. There’s no guarantee they will be where you are but it’s always worth a look. Even if you don’t see a whale, you may be treated to a seabird show or spot an unusual duck or two.

It may be dreary out there, but we don’t have to let it get us down. Enjoy the days of less traffic, no lines in restaurants, the time to visit with friends and family that may be busy in the summer. Check out places you’ve never been. Some folks tend to stay within a few miles of their home. Try a visit to a town on the other side of the Cape, one you don’t know well. It’s difficult to get too lost here and each town has wonderful conservation areas and different types of beaches to explore

Winter will soon be a memory. In the meantime, we may as well find ways to turn the bleakness into beauty. It only takes a change in attitude.