Downtown View: The Calm Month

Lots of people complain about January. It is dark. It is cold. It’s a day longer than some months. The hoopla about the holidays is over.

Thank goodness. That is the beauty of January. It is not like autumn, the season in which everyone and every organization are trying to crowd in every event they can to make up for the time lost in the summer. Nor is it like December, one headlong rush of parties, presents and much to-ing and fro-ing.

Neither is it like April, May and the first week or so of June, in which everyone and every organization are trying to crowd in every event before everyone leaves for the summer.

Instead, not much is happening.

To enjoy January fully, it helps to have the right infrastructure. Number one is a fireplace. But, of course, you need wood. Once in awhile a guy with a truckfull of logs shows up on a street corner, but he is unpredictable. Groceries and the big box stores sell wood, but it’s hard to haul it home. Fake logs will work, but they look—well—fake. No wonder so many homeowners have gone to gas fireplaces that you start with the same kind of clicker you use for the television.

Other important pieces of infrastructure are heavy curtains that can be drawn across windows. In case you hadn’t noticed, typical storm windows are really not that effective when it gets to 10 below.

A comfortable chair, a good bookshelf and a full supply of coffee, tea, hot chocolate or supplies for hot buttered rum or hot toddies are also a necessity. So is a full fridge and backup supplies of everything else you need. After all, you don’t want to have to go out in the cold on slippery sidewalks if you don’t have to.

Good friends are a necessity in January, preferably those who do not go away to some warmer clime. Getting together for bridge, a movie or music is something to look forward to, and generally getting tickets for performances doesn’t seem has difficult as it was in December.

A down or fur coat is important. Objections about fur coats too often come from persons who eat meat, wear leather shoes or have cars with leather seats. Hypocrisy is not pretty—and if you’re okay with down but not fur, just think what happens to the ducks.

If you get a couple of weeks in a warm place, you’re one of the lucky ones. It’s impressive, however, to learn about how many downtown Boston residents, who might go away for a week or so, don’t actually go to Florida for the whole winter. We stick it out here, maybe because we actually like a bracing winter day, and we certainly like a good snowstorm that blankets sound and provides such beauty out the window. Most of us don’t have to drive in the mess to get to work or to school, so we’re better off than those who commute by car every day.

Even though there’s a lot of talk about the winter blues, in fact most of us get through the winter just fine. Estimates are all over the place, but there seems to be some agreement that 4 to 6 percent of Americans become seriously depressed in winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Another 10 to 20 percent are mildly affected. Of  course, those in northern states are more likely to suffer than those in southern states.

            This means a large percentage of New Englanders are just fine with winter. Maybe they are happy that the January calm starts the new year out just right.

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