Friday, February 22, 2013

How To Beat The Winter Doldrums



Today is Friday, Feb. 22 and it’s a sunny, relatively warm day, nice for late winter. But spring still remains a few steps ahead of us. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for coastal Maine beginning Saturday evening and lasting through Sunday.

Of course the storm may change direction, ride out to sea. But probably not. We’ll no doubt get several more snowstorms yet this season. So while we remain locked in winter’s grip, there are several sources of solace. One, something I do each year, requires very little effort.

I refer to the venerable Swedish practice of cutting white birch branchlets and forcing them in a water-filled vase. It helps to flatten the butt ends of the branchlets, or twigs, in order to encourage them to absorb as much water as possible. Keep the vase filled and soon, lime-green leaves will unfurl, a little vignette of what we can expect in just a few, short months.

And then for those who live in places where snow has melted on south-facing banks, we have an opportunity to do some early-season foraging. Some plants, perennials, do just fine under their blanket of winter snow. Two of these, wintergreen and ground ivy, make pleasant, healthful, teas.

So if you know where either of these two plants grew last fall before the snow fell, head out there now and try and find some. Pick the leaves and go back in and make a tea. For wintergreen tea, use lots of wintergreen leaves, since it makes a fairly weak solution. Ground ivy produces a very bitter tea. It’s high in vitamin C, so if, like me, you enjoy bitters, you’ll appreciate ground ivy. The late Euell Gibbons enjoyed both of these refreshing teas.

Finally, if you have a south-facing window, remove your shirt, if practicable, and stand back-to in the sunshine. Then turn around, close your eyes and let the sun shine on your face. Benjamin Franklin made this practice a regular habit. He called it his “tonic bath.” Dr. Franklin may not have known about vitamins from sunshine, but he certainly understood the benefits of regular, limited exposure to the sun.

These are just some of the various ways to beat the winter doldrums and give the heave-ho to cabin fever. And just think, by doing these things, we are in good company, the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Euell Gibbons. I can’t think of two people whom I admire more.


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