(Published in MEANDERINGS in the BUTTE WEEKLY April 3, 2019)

It’s been a long, cold winter. And dark too. As someone who has spent most of his life in the Summit Valley and weathered decades of high-mountain northern winter, I know this is nothing new. It has always been this way. Yet, each year I’m affected. Will, reason, family, friends--and making music--give me brief moments of relief. But inevitably, the darkness settles in and weighs heavy on my body and mind.

This winter nearly broke me, again.

Highlands in Winter Shroud & Halo (photo by Chad Okrusch)

Highlands in Winter Shroud & Halo (photo by Chad Okrusch)

Near January’s end, just after my 46th birthday, my adult daughters intervened. They sat me in a  chair in my divorced dad rental living room--a truly depressing scene in itself--and loved me in word and deed. Wise beyond their years, they didn’t judge me or try and cheer me up. They just loved me and let me know that I matter to them. They reminded me of who I am and what I mean to them and to all those who love me. They let me know that they’ve seen this pattern for years. Every January I break. And, they asked me not to give up--to keep searching. Depression is real, normal even. And, there are ways to cope with it.

Of course, I know all this. But, in the throes of it, what we know matters less than what we feel. I’ve taken medications, sat through dozens of hours of talk-therapy, adjusted my diet, exercised. I’ve done all of the things. Still, each winter, I sink deeply into a strange and heavy existence. Each morning I wake, wear the heaviness like a blanket, and slog through the day. Some mornings, I choose not to wake at all, but to rest in the strange solace hurting people find in unconsciousness. Life seems to hurt less when your sleeping.

If you struggle now, keep struggling. It means your alive. And, know that with each trip around the sun, there always comes a moment when there is more light than darkness.

They begged me to carry on. Looking into their eyes, which are my eyes, awakened something in me. Sleep and slog is no way to spend those precious few moments we are graced with. Today, this moment, is all we have. Each heartbeat and breath is sacred. I know, and have always known, all of this. But, something in their eyes set a spark to my dying embers, and there and then, I chose life.

It may seem strange to share such a private moment with the world, but I know I’m not the only one who wears winter heavy. I know I’m not the only person who struggles with the actuality of depression, and the social stigma associated with mental dis-ease. Hiding in the darkness, lonely and afraid, only leads to deeper and darker existence. Bringing things to light, even the dim and short light of winter days, is the only path to hope and growth and change. For these reasons, and for all the others who may be struggling today, I write this. I care not about the judgement of those who do not suffer as we do. I only hope that someone might see truth in my words and decide as I have to carry on--to keep trying.

As winter turns to spring and days get longer, I find hope in small things:  the emergence of the crocus, and the first buds on the aspen trees. Soon, they will flower and quake. And, so will we, provided we keep on and continue to reach out and into the buzzing blooming lifeworld. The sacred gifts of heartbeat and breath allow us to reach out so that we might touch each other. Hope lives here.

If you struggle now, keep struggling. It means your alive. And, know that with each trip around the sun, there always comes a moment when there is more light than darkness. Here along the great divide, it takes longer, but it still happens, as sure as dusk turns to dawn. It reminds me of a beautiful lyric from Kate Wolf’s song, Across the Great Divide:

The finest hour that I have seen
Is the one that comes between
The edge of night and the break of day
It's when the darkness rolls away

Somewhere beneath the snow, the crocus are pushing through. They’ll turn the heavy snow blanket into leaf and flower, and so will we. Here’s to spring, and to hope, and to light, and to love. Wake up, it’s time to live again.