Editorial Page

Welcome To the Light and the Beautiful Dark

Autumn is here, and like always, it brings big changes to the amount and quality of daylight on the Island. These seasonal transitions can be intense – especially, it is said, for people who live in the forest and on the Westside. The twilight and eventual darkness become a constant companion, with a presence that’s as strong as a character in a novel; for example, someone who is tall and fully cloaked.

By the time you read this, daylight savings time – a personal nemesis for many and a short-term knock-down punch to the calm rhythms of daily life – will have occurred. There was some promising discussion in January 2021 about eliminating daylight savings time altogether. A federal bill, called the Sunshine Protection Act, was introduced, but never made it out of the House of Representatives. Side note: You may have noticed that almost nothing ever makes it out of Congress anymore, like there’s some sort of fundamental deterioration going on.

When you add the seasonal rain to our local setting, a person can become grumpy and unmotivated. When it’s no longer pleasant to be outdoors, there is this huge matter of what to do with your time. It can be especially problematic if you live here in order to spend more time outdoors.

There is something beautiful about the dark. Getting under the blankets, huddling together, reading, listening to the rain, and enjoying the fireplace stove are great stuff. For a while. Or at least for part of the day. But what if you are the kind of person who gets jumpy for activity? Or the kind who stops doing much of anything if you spend too much time under the blankets?

Right now is a great moment to think about your seasonal situation and profile, so to speak, and to consider strategies that could help keep you going till spring comes again. Here are three suggestions.

First, do healthy things during your time in the dark. One thing to consider is supplementing with vitamin D3. Low vitamin D levels are linked to depression, seasonal affective disorder, fatigue, and foggy brain. Some of us may enjoy a bit of fatigue and foggy brain from time to time, but vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem. In the Pacific Northwest, almost one-half of us are vitamin D-deficient, and most of us don’t know it. Adequate Vitamin D levels are also protective against severe COVID-19. When you can’t get seasonal vitamin D from direct sunlight, supplementing can be very important.

Second, plan now to build or sustain your social connections. Within reason, of course. We are on an island, after all. We really do appreciate our private time. But this is also a great season to get together with the people you care about the most. If you have the good fortune of spare cash, you can meet your friends at one of our excellent restaurants. Even more hands-on, the COVID closures revived the classic potluck for many – let’s keep it going?

It is definitely the case that COVID-19 trained many of us to stop going out and getting together. Depending on your circumstances, this could be the time to move on from that and get back in the (still pretty slow) Vashon groove.

Third, start new projects and anticipate spring endeavors. Surrender to the fact that you are ancestrally inclined to spend this time in reflection, planning, and some degree of experimentation. Also, getting firewood. Annoying but important questions, like: “How will I ever successfully start a garden if my property is infested with Bermuda Grass?” or “Does no-knead bread ever really turn out well?” can finally be considered and addressed.

You can also go out of your way to join a new project. What are some skills you’d like to acquire? The world is changing – there so many things to learn. One option available right now is to become part of Vashon Self-Sufficiency, a new group for Vashon residents who are interested in learning about and sharing strategies and skills to become more self-sufficient.

Vashon Self Sufficiency started in October (the first lesson was on canning) and meets Wednesday nights, 6-8 p.m., at the meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 9330 SW 204th St. (just east of the high school). It has been organized by Gene and Jan Kuhns. All Vashon residents are welcome. You can start attending anytime, and you can join the Facebook group, “Vashon Self-Sufficiency” for more information.

Let’s not hide away from community – too much – during the dark period. The light will come back.

November 8, 2022

About Author

caitlin I’m a member of the Vashon Loop Editorial Board and write about medicine, health, and society. I’m a research geek and an MPH, and I’m also a mom, farmer, teacher, and apocalypse librarian. I edit things. If I’m not doing something, it’s probably because I am asleep.