Seasonal Anxiety

With apologies to those enduring the aftermath of hurricanes and wildfires, this time of year makes me nervous. My low level but constant anxiety springs to new heights in the fall, not because of the seasonal darkness creeping in, but because of the number of things to be done before a northeastern winter—the battening down of the hatches.

Take today’s newspaper for instance. Three helpful columnists listed all of the things to be done this month (half over), during November and in December, in the yard, in the home and precautions to save our lives in a fire as woodstoves, fireplaces and furnaces come alive. Each list is long, and when we’re not up on the roof inspecting the dormers, the eaves, the dreaded fascia boards and soffits, we’re instructed to get down among the weeds, and vanquish them from next spring’s garden. Adventurous souls who own ponds with fish and aquatic plants are urged to capture and carry all to an indoor tank. Evergreens are to be watered (mine are on their own), invasive vines cut and dipped in Roundup, door seals checked by placing and pulling a dollar bill out from the seal (thereby ripping up even more money).

After testing the fire and carbon monoxide alarms and setting the ceiling fans to run clockwise, I’m sure we’ll have time to baste the turkey while our partners drain the irrigation lines. Lines drained and fans running like clockwork, we can take a moment to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast before moving on to digging the new garden beds for the spring. Returning to work on Thanksgiving weekend Monday will seem like a vacation.

Speaking of which, how do people with jobs do all this stuff? How do people who do anything time-consuming, such as, um, writing, caring for children or aged relatives, how do they do any of this stuff? Don’t ask me. I’ve tried to stick to a daily schedule that includes everything that I want to do each day, but as we hurtle toward winter, the list seems to increase, right along with my seasonal anxiety, and I never manage to do it all.

The dog is walked twice a day no matter what, but there are two humans participating in that effort. We cook, we eat, we clean and sleep badly, and we’ve even managed to call the chimney sweep (that’s on the list for November so we’re ahead of schedule!), bring in the houseplants ahead of a frost and stow the kayaks in the shed. Less than half the bulbs have been planted (my hand is up as a glutton for punishment) but I have not sniffed the electrical panel for the aroma of burning insulation nor looked for rust or water to determine whether an electrician should be called (on the December list)—nor will I.

The three lists go on and on as my seasonal anxiety goes up and up until staggering into mid-December, we’ll take a break to prepare for the holidays, making our own lists of cards, food and presents to ready. Happy holidays!

Exhausted and thankful that we do not have root crops like parsnips to mulch, we—like the bears—will hunker down for a long and relaxing winter, when the lists shorten or disappear, and there is absolutely nothing to do outside, except to take nice walks with Yaktrax on our boots and bring more wood in from the shed. My anxiety will return to its normal low level and I swear I will never complain about February again.

2 thoughts on “Seasonal Anxiety

  1. Your seasonal anxiety is apparently contagious. I read your splendid essay and could not help thinking that perhaps it would be wise to throw in the towel as fas as country living is concerned. Instead, life in an urban rental apartment suddenly appealed: porters, concierge desk staff, maintenance crew – all a phone call away. Orders delivered throughout the day and night, sidewalks cleared by morning. Suddenly those dreary mailbox memoranda (“the maintenance staff will be HVAC filters on Thursday”] seem welcome. But even in your hectic batten-the-hatches mode you surely know that the joys of rural life are many. And that February you write of, with a fire in the wood stove, a good book, a faithful dog and a glass of wine? Heaven.

    1. There are many times when the thought of an apartment appeals, and I meant to add that many things on these winterizing lists go undone, and all is well.

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