The toughest bit about this month is that it is full of sad news and memories of loss from years gone by. Natalie Cole, David Bowie and now Alan Rickman join my best friend from elementary school and my husband's grandfather who've already gone on to whatever mystery awaits us. For me, it is also full of anniversaries of birth of some other people in my life who died way too early, leaving empty places that seems bigger in January than in the warmth of summer. It seems like people fighting for their lives manage to hang on to be with family for one more holiday in December but January is a time of letting go, a time to mourn. Be at peace.
With such a dark, sad time of year, in a massive effort to combat depression, cabin fever and general shack wackiness, people take an icy plunge into a mostly frozen lake or do some sort of sport involving balancing on sharp metal blades while simultaneously whacking at something with a stick and sliding on ice. Balancing on boards careening down a hill is also popular. Depending on what sort of weather we are complaining about, sometimes we slide down sidewalks and roads while yelling choice anti-lock words. If you are young and not responsible for your own car insurance, the same effect may be manufactured in a largely empty mall parking-lot. Providing the appropriate space for donuts is the true purpose of Walmart. I would prefer to eat the donuts which brings me to another way to fight January. Always keep fighting, right?
Comfort food exists as a direct response to January. Adam and Eve got evicted from the garden into a world containing death, winter in January, and the inevitable taxes. Eve, being practical and rightly pissed off at the fruit at the center of the whole mess, decided to get her revenge and make pie out of it. Adam ate whatever she handed him evidently, and was happy to note that pie came without a smiting, as long as he took the trash out and got his own beer. Eve, glad to have someone else handle the trash (she watches SPN and the X-Files and knows what's out there), found other things to make into pie. Some were more successful than others. Take mincemeat for example...or maybe not. As for me, after several years of grocery shopping for Thanksgiving dinners with a spotty memory, I have enough canned pumpkin to provide pies for my family right through the end times. Some of the people on my facebook feed have succumbed to January and are convinced that the end times are here as heralded by the existence of Obamacare and Pope Francis. I hate to break it to them but the end of the world is supposed to come when you least expect it and everybody expects it in January. But I digress. We were discussing canned pumpkin. My goal is to have made pies with all of it by March. I have been making a pie every other week or so since November and still have about six cans left. I'm getting good at pie crust though.
So I fight January with baking and by leaving the outdoor Christmas lights up until at least after the Superbowl. When things seem very bleak, I can always dig out the seed catalogs and plan the summer veggie garden. This year, I have my parents' 50th Anniversary surprise to plan and my brothers to frame for it. As a response to the mess that was 2015, I am back in therapy with shiny new diagnoses with lots of letters that mostly mean I am extremely shy and wig out at slamming doors. I think I can make headway and be better for it when I'm done. Hopefully it is more tune-up than overhaul. Things are improving with our dogs and I've managed to walk both of them every day for over a week now using gentle leaders. There is something almost meditative about standing in the winter backyard with the dogs in the growing dusk. There is still enough ambient light to see and the winter clouds reflect the evening lights of the city adding a glow to the sky. Mix in the white noise of the far off freeway rush hour traffic and let the cold settle in a little. I can gather in the calm and stoic reserves needed to get through another January day and I think of the people and critters that I have been lucky to share the planet with. Then I can go inside and take the pie out of the oven and remember that there are only 34 days before the MLB pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training and the days are getting longer.