Today ends the week of the In-Betweenies.
In between Christmas and New Year, in between the end of one year and the beginning of another, in between the joy of decorating for the holidays and the melancholy of taking down the tree, in between that period of holiday lights brightening up the December night and the beginning of the Long Dark of winter in earnest... that's the In-Betweenies.
I don't like the In-Betweenies much. As a person who struggles with the seasonal blues brought on by too much dark and insideness and cold, Advent with its candles and the holidays with their myriad lights are my tether to brighter times - but of course, they can't last forever, no matter how I wish they would. I spend a good bit of the In-Betweenies refusing to take down my Christmas decorations and trying to stretch the holidays out as long as I can.
For me, the In-Betweenies are primarily the harbinger of the Long Dark, that period peculiar to northern climes where all there seems to be are early dusks, bare-branched icy dawns, and nights where you don't stay out too long to look up at the stars due to the chill and damp. Like our ancestors before us, we must face that Long Dark as best we can. The lucky can pack up and head south, combating the Long Dark with milder nights that invite you out walking and days that laugh at the sour northern winter latitudes above. The rest of us huddle under extra layers and rush from car to door and back again, and dream of spring.
I'm a bit jealous, really, of those who are outdoorsy sorts, like my friend Steph - for her, the In-Betweenies are the gateway to the rest of winter where, if she's lucky, enough snow will fall to let her get out and snowshoeing. If it doesn't, well, Steph is a committed hiker in all seasons. For many outdoor lovers, including scores of children, the rest of winter is a time of hoping for snow enough for making snowmen and snow forts and for sledding or skiing, for hot cocoa with marshmallows, for exulting in the tingle of icy skin made warm again when outdoor time is done. Me, I'm a weather wimp. My idea of getting outside in the winter is going for a drive.
For others, the In-Betweenies are positively welcome for the homeyness they bring - they herald the end of the hectic rush of the holiday season, or the emphasis on holidays they don't celebrate to begin with, and signal a return to Everyday Life, albeit a bit colder and darker for a bit... a time for stews and comforting soups on the stove, fresh-baked breads, and indoor activities of the recreational or necessary variety. These folks clean out closets and reorganize pantries, scrapbook or quilt or knit, catch up on shows they've been meaning to watch, complete jigsaw puzzles, or websurf places like Pinterest to get newer, better ideas for how to feather their nest in cozy and charming ways. Me, I have more ideas than talent and tenacity to put them into action. Pinterest is not my friend.
But today, the In-Betweenies officially end... a new year is started, regardless of whether it is greeted with great joy or trepidation, regardless of how we plan to use it. And my grouchy, anxious feelings about that in-between time of the year morph into thoughts about the wide-open spread of 2017 that stretches far beyond the Long Dark of winter. It's a feeling not unlike looking at a blank page, and wondering what to write on it. There's always a bit of anxiety there, too - but as soon as the first word is written, that feeling passes.
It's time to get to writing on this new year.