In The Debt to Pleasure John Lancaster wonders if T.S. Eliot invented the link between April and suicides, just as painter Joseph Mallord William Turner invented sunsets (Google it. I did).
But, Lancaster goes on. Before talking about the glory of roast lamb in April (The Debt to Pleasure is a dark, twisted, informative read that evokes, in me, a 1930s mood, and I don’t even know what that means. A bedside book to flip through as the mood hits), he cites empirical evidence that shows suicides spike as days grow longer.
I have my sub Arctic-based theories as to why this may be. It’s related to expectations, in some people. I have friends whose calendars are booked solid from May until September. In February they ask me if I’m free specific weeks in July to canoe specific rivers, and if I’d like to go for a hike from August 12 to August 17. I don’t know how to respond to these questions.
I look into their eyes, which are wild with preparedness. Of course I want to, but the galloping spirit of summer is unfathomable in February. I sip my dark, heavy beer and notice that it’s five in the evening and although the sun has gone down, it’s still light out. My chest is pierced with mourning. For the dark days. In the winter, I sink into a sunrise-sunset cycle that’s synchronized to my (sometimes) nine-to-five job.
There’s a coziness to waking up in darkness and walking the dog while sipping coffee from a travel mug in the dusky morning light. Exhaust fills the streets as vehicles idle in driveways, but nobody is about.
In an early winter evening, the parking lot at Mt. McIntyre is filled with cars driven by people who ski for sanity — cross country skiing for 45 minutes after work is the most complacent way to get a sweat on in fresh air during the Yukon winter. Then, it’s cool to go home and eat corn from a can with a stolen fork, under blankets, with a laptop propped up on a pillow, watching TV on the Internet. It’s winter; everyone’s scurvy-ish.
My friends with their well-organized calendars and my mourning the coziness of the winter months — we’re adjusting to the growing light of April in different ways. How do we account for the sudden sense of flight the light evokes in our spirits? Some people need to fit everything in; they leave no stone unturned.
Me? I start wearing my shoulder season jackets. My leather one is not warm enough for the winter. My gold-coloured trench. Soon, denim — and the world will keep turning. I twist my hair into elaborate dos, ones that would be ruined by toques. I polish my summer shoes and daydream about leeks (the most spring-vegetable there is, something I always knew but was affirmed by The Debt to Pleasure).
I pull out my bike, check the air pressure in the tires, and start getting used to a mud-spattered backside. It’s too early for biking but that’s the thing about shoulder season, once you let it, it hits you hard.