Tag Archives: drear

Everything’s Coming up Irises

It’s been a sorry excuse for a winter in certain parts of Canada. In Toronto, for example, which is where I live and have always lived, you could say that the winter of 2011-2012 was the winter that never was. I can’t recall ever counting snowfalls during a winter before, but we had a measly six of them this year–I’m talking about the kind where the snow actually accumulates to the point where it can be said to blanket the ground. The rest of the time, we had chilly precipitation with an identity crisis: it couldn’t decide whether it was rain or snow. After a while, I gave up wanting real snow and resigned myself to our pseudo-winter. What topped off all this drear for me was coming down with a horrendous mega-bug that took nearly two weeks to recover from–not that I was alone in this regard.

I want all this drear to be over and done with. Out with the endless grey and in with the sunshine! Well, yesterday I got my wish. We had a breathtakingly sunny day with temperatures of 16 degrees C, which very nearly shattered a record set in 1987. This lovely surge of unexpected warmth and sunshine was enough to nudge the dwarf irises, which started emerging at least a couple of weeks ago, into full bloom. They’re just outside our apartment building, and I swear that they’re the one burst of glorious colour in our neighbourhood. I couldn’t resist photographing them and posting them here. It may be premature to say this since the vernal equinox is not until March 20th, but I’ll say it all the same–happy spring, everyone.

Fear Not the Drear

Here in Toronto, it’s the time of year I like to call the drear–that period in late autumn when the leaves are off the trees but the snow has not yet begun to fly. The drear feels like a limbo state between autumn and winter and is characterized by days and days of unrelenting overcast skies, rain, and mud. Last year’s drear was mercifully short because the snow arrived early, but this year, we’ve been subjected to what seems like an extraordinarily long drear–long enough to test the fortitude of even the most diehard optimist.

One thing I should say before I continue is that drear is actually a literary adjective that dates to 1629. It’s the sort of word that makes me think of a 19th-century poet wandering lonely o’er a dank and drear moor pining for his lady love, who has either spurned the poor poet or succumbed to consumption. Drear has Gothic literary connotations for me. Editors could legitimately take issue with my use of it as a noun, since the Canadian Oxford Dictionary regards it as an adjective only.

Noun or adjective, drear captures both the prevailing weather and how it affects me perfectly. As a freelancer who works at home, I find the drear particularly difficult to cope with. As far as I know, I don’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), yet if I allow it to, the drear will sneak into my home office, robbing me of energy and taking energy’s close relatives, motivation and inspiration, with it as it flies out the door (I imagine it uttering a diabolical laugh as it flees). Perhaps if you work at home and spend many hours alone writing, editing, or doing whatever else you do, you’re finding that the drear is affecting you too. What to do?

I’m not normally the sort of person who needs to give myself rewards to motivate myself to get a job done unless that job is so challenging that it’s threatening my sanity. However, I do find that rewarding myself helps me combat the drear. My accomplishments needn’t be immense and the corresponding rewards needn’t be elaborate–something modest like “When I finish editing this chapter, I’ll get up and have a cup of tea (something fruity and caffeinated like blackcurrant) and some dark chocolate (70 percent)” works just fine for me. Of course, finishing an entire project is cause for celebration, meaning a much splashier reward awaits. Keeping that reward on the front burner of my mind as I’m working certainly keeps my momentum going. If I intend to splurge on a sweater, I keep looking at it online to remind me that it will be my present to myself for both achieving my goal and surviving the drear.

Exercise and fresh air are also essential to coping with the drear. Fortunately, I have the 50-pound mutt to take me out for walks every day, usually just when I desperately need to stretch my limbs and get the oxygen flowing to my brain so the synapses will start doing what they’re supposed to again. The daily dog walk has many benefits, both physical and psychological. Watching my dog wrestle with her best friend (an Airedale) and fly around the park–outrunning most of the other dogs with superlative ease and grace, I might add–lifts my spirits and makes me smile. And there are inevitably other dog owners to talk to. When you spend much of your day in front of a computer screen, the joy of talking to human beings face to face should never be underestimated. After an outing to the dog park, the score is once again in my favour: Caroline 1, Drear 0.

Dangling rewards before myself and doing the mutt promenade are two things I do when the drear threatens to turn me into an unproductive, useless lump. But I have to ask: What do you do to fight the drear?