Key Pen and Ink


Cathy Warner

Beating the Winter Blues

Five years ago on the winter solstice when my husband and I moved to Bainbridge Island from California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, our new neighbors, lifelong Washingtonians, asked how we were going to handle the rain.

We knew rain: One year, 12 inches fell in less than 24 hours, turning our road into a river. Another year, our daylight basement, septic tank and leach fields flooded when a clogged culvert routed all the road’s runoff through our yard. Every winter, trees fell, taking power lines with them. Rockslides and mudslides were routine, closing the handful of routes to work and school, stranding thousands of people for hours or days.

They didn’t ask how we were going to handle the short days now that we’d moved 900 miles north, leaving 70 minutes of daylight behind.

We knew dark: Our Santa Cruz Mountains home sat at the bottom of a ridge, surrounded by towering redwoods. November through February, the sun never rose above the ridge, our decks stayed wet and slippery, and I couldn’t see a thing indoors without the lights on.

Dark, cold, wet: Puget Sound has those qualities as well. Since hibernating wasn’t and isn’t an option, I’ve developed some strategies to beat the winter blues. Perhaps some of them will help you, whether or not you’re new to this region that my father calls “the land of aluminum skies.”

Swap out incandescent bulbs for LEDs and you’ll increase your lamps’ light. Add floor and desk lamps to dark areas.

Keep your drapes open all day if privacy from neighbors allows. To maximize daylight, trim overgrown bushes and remove or cut back tree branches that block windows.

Sleep with your bedroom curtains open. I’m lucky enough to have a southeast-facing bedroom and it’s delightful to watch the sunrise, even if it slips straight into clouds a few minutes later.

Stay awake and warm when working at home by brewing a pot of hot tea, listening to background music, wearing a bathrobe over your clothes or a base layer under. When all else fails: Vacuum! It’s guaranteed to increase your energy and body temperature.

Find a view. Though evergreens are beautiful, I can feel walled in by trees. Looking out over the water, even on gray days, provides a sense of expansiveness, lifts my spirits, and can be accomplished as easily as a drive down the Purdy Spit, a walk on the beach, parking at an overlook or a ferry ride.

Putter in the yard. Unless it’s pouring rain, or the ground is frozen, I can usually find winter garden chores: deadheading, raking leaves, planting bulbs, ripping berry canes out of planted areas. I stay dry and warm down to 40 degrees by using a kneeling pad and wearing a hat that covers my ears, toe warmers in my waterproof shoes, a base layer under jeans and sweatshirt, a rain suit over my clothes, and nitrile exam gloves under a pair of gardening gloves.

Dream about days to come. Six months from now, we’ll be reveling in the glorious days of summer, soaking up 16 hours of daylight, made all the more precious by its lack now.

Cathy Warner lives in Wauna.