The arrival of November’s biting winds foretells the inevitable onslaught of another wicked boreal winter. Even as I write this, the power lines are down and the lights have gone out. Dear old Mother Nature is howling up and down the avenue, throwing great handfuls of sleet against our windowpanes, giving us all yet another glimpse of the pissed off, “Mommie Dearest” side of her personality. Nothing for it, then, but to replace the lemon-yellow Ikea blinds with midnight blue crushed velvet curtains, pull the cork from a bottle of blood red claret, rummage about in grandmother’s old steamer trunk to find her antique silver-plated candelabra, and, by the light of the candles, sit myself down to savour a blue-rare venison steak smothered in juniper berries.
Of course, we all have our early onset winter survival strategies. Or if we don’t, we really should develop them. For some of us, that may include retrieving that suitcase full of funky hand knitted sweaters from the basement storage locker, then meeting friends at the mall for a round of chai tea lattes and early Christmas shopping, followed by a film at the cineplex. For others, it may look more like showing up at midnight at the local graveyard with a copy of The Collected Writings of Anton LaVey tucked under one arm.
By and large, I consider myself to be an affable, social sort of bloke. I enjoy cocktails and discotheques as much as the next fellow. Nevertheless, there’s always been a large part of me that gravitates more towards these long nights of the soul that accompany the shrinking of the days. Those long, cloudless, blue-sky days of summer always creep me out a bit and make me think of the Stepford Wives. They are too perfect by half and make me feel guilty that I am not quite carefree and lighthearted enough. A troubled sky that’s spitting lightning and freezing rain bears a fierce delight all its own and is a much better mirror of the workings of the darkly mysterious world below.
There are many ways to pursue happiness when it isn’t there. Acquisitions, accomplishments, income, self-medication, to name a few. Over time, most of them lead to a state of diminishing returns.
If the experience of living has taught me anything at all, it is that simple happiness is not the natural state of the universe. Our bodies and our minds are fragile miracles, and around us both wonders and terrors abound; there is no way to live life and not have ample experience of both.
There’s a wonderful line in the Coen Brothers’ film Miller’s Crossing, when the character played by Gabriel Byrne states, in his stoic, sardonic way, that “[t]here’s nothing more foolish than a man chasing his hat”. I guess I feel that way about the futile chase after fleeting and fragile moments of happiness. Much better to find a way to sit in the darkness and listen to the elegant beauty of the storm.