Duh, I'm a sun babyGWYNETH HYNDMAN
The Montana dispatch:
First of all, huckleberry frozen yogurt with crumbled chocolate Cinnamon Toast Crunch on top, while watching The Trophy Wife in bed is the bomb.
Second of all, I've realised I run on solar power.
I am - in the deepest, truest part of me - a Californian. And I am in Montana.
And I can accept the fact that without sunlight, I wither.
I can accept that without sunlight I will be putting myself to bed with shows that have laugh tracks and bowls of ice cream with cup after cup of kids' cereal dumped on top if I don't get at least four minutes of direct sunlight on my face that day.
This week I had a flashback to when I lived in Nelson St, Invercargill, and how once, in the middle of winter, I was backing the car out of the driveway to go to work and the sun broke through.
I was already late, but I got out of the car anyway, because it was such a rare moment.
It had been about two months since I hadn't had to brace myself and wince every time a door to the outside world opened. I took off my boots, unbuttoned my jacket, and took that off too, and folded it for a pillow and placed it on the driveway.
And then I stretched out there on my back, starfish-style.
I may have been on the cold, hard concrete of a south city driveway, but I lay there like I was on the soft sands of a beach in Mexico. Waves of happiness washed over me as I lifted my chin to the heat. I logged it a mental health hour.
This morning I have woken up with the sullenness that has become the norm for me in the past few weeks, when every motion towards the creative goals I was so excited about reaching here feels like it is all being done underwater.
This snow groomer, who lives above my room, has decided to get satellite television in time for next week's football Super Bowl (Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks - a big television day in America) and at 9am - not exactly an unreasonable hour - I was startled awake by drilling.
I've been in a mood all day since then. I can't write. I can't think deep thoughts. It is supposed to be my day off, but it doesn't feel that way as I stomp around in hiking boots because nothing else has grip on the ice I have to navigate en route to work. I miss wearing jandals, I think to myself, as I butter my toast with rage. I hate my hiking boots. I want to take out my trash in bare feet. I want to go to the market and not have to dig a car out of snow to get there.
Last week I wrote about not accomplishing what I set out to accomplish when I came to Montana in December and then feeling guilty for not treating this time with the care it deserves.
In response, a friend joked I might be solar-powered. I laughed. But then I thought about other rough winters (rough for a Californian) that I have had to trudge through in my lifetime, and you know what? She's onto something.
I romanticise winter. I dream about skiing, and thick socks and hot baths and muffins and darkness that will keep me subdued and centred on quieter pursuits that I have been delaying when it is light outside until 10pm.
I'll leap into winter with all this enthusiasm and good intention and within six weeks I hit a low. A real low. And I wonder if there is something really, really wrong with me. And there is a weird amnesia with this, because every winter I forget that I've gone through the exact same adjustment the winter before.
Because duh. I'm a sun baby.
But here's the thing: I'm a sun-baby who has been well-schooled in winters.
And for this, I thank you, Southland and Otago. You toughened me up.
I'm blaming a long brilliant Californian summer and weirdly warm autumn for going all wimpy and pathetic in the past six weeks (in my defence the morning before I left for Montana, I went for a run on the beach in a sleeveless shirt and shorts. I was barefoot. It was 81 degrees. Less than 48 hours later I arrived to digits that were in the negatives. So maybe this whole oversleeping and children's cereal phase is just me being in shock).
But really, I told myself, as I walked up to the main lodge that has a veranda that looks out to the mountains. You have had plenty of winters to test your mettle.
Think about it. You did a winter in a cottage in Clinton, when you'd eat a bowl of soup in a hot bath just to warm up. You dealt with pipes that froze, and then burst, and frost coating the window inside the house.
Remember the next winter in a Kaka Point crib, and the snow on the beach, and frantically shovelling coal into the potbelly stove, as wind tore pieces of the roof off?
And then what about that winter in Fernhill in Queenstown? No sun. A fireplace that was a dud. A room in a basement.
Then two winters in south city, Invercargill and half of one in a crib in Omaui.
C'mon, I told myself. Pull yourself together. You know how to do winter.
You got this.
When I get up to the veranda the sun is hitting it hard. I'm supposed to collect Jess, my roommate, and then go down to the A-frame chalet below me to get out skis and go exploring before it gets dark. I am late already. I realise we got mixed up and she is probably down there waiting.
I think about how I should get going back down to the chalet and then I think no.
First I need four minutes.
I collapse in a big timber chair, hands resting on my lap, eyes closed like I am waiting to be beamed into space. The afternoon sun hits my eyelids and it is like I am being recharged.