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The darkness descends and since my body thinks it’s 9 P.M., my brain shuts down, remaining energy depletes, and I’m mentally ready for bed when I double-check the clock:

Body, meet truth bomb. It’s only 4:45 P.M. Please picture me here—groaning, sighing, and rolling my eyes. I check the calendar and it’s January 9th. Of course. Welcome to winter in upper New England.

But it’s more than just the sunset time itself: seasonal depression is a real thing, folks. And as the sun sets earlier in the evening, my depression and anxiety close in so much so that I don’t want to leave the apartment.

I currently live in the coastal town of Cape Neddick, Maine. If you’ve ever ventured to southern Maine during the off-season (that is, mid-October) you know that everything pretty much shuts down from mid-fall until late spring, save for a few year-round restaurants, the rhyzomatic antique stores that sprawl across the state’s endless landscape, and several hotels for out-of-towners still seeking out the solace of the beaches.

As the town shuts down, I shut down. It’s a real problem. I love where I live, but damned if my depression doesn’t sneak itself further under the sheets as infectious summer excitement fades and the nights become too chilly to camp.

More than anything, I want to claw back the sun from its placement at civil dusk, nautical dusk, and astronomical dusk to soak in a few more hours of life and light. Though the Winter Solstice has since passed and the hours of daylight are getting longer everyday, it’s still not enough to shake these feelings. I want to rip away the pages of last year’s Dog-A-Day calendar until it’s May—the cusp of summer. And though the hectic and travel-congested tourist season may double the commute to my therapist, it’s also the cusp of freedom, of long and productive writing days. The cusp of evenings spent fireside, swimming in Middle Pond, or pitching a tent at Beaverdam Campground (which, hilariously, is owned by a wonderful lesbian couple).

A text pops up from my friend one evening, and I check my calendar to see when I’m free. I suddenly realize, oh hey, 2019 is shaping up to be damn exciting. This is the year I get married to the love of my life, finish my first novel to be published, reignite neglected friendships, and finally attend Anime Boston once again.

But a calendar is more than just a marker of point-in-time events, For me, scrolling and flipping through whatever medium—whether the calendar is digital or paper—is about acknowledging achievements. I realize that in 2019 I’ll hit my one-year mark with hormone replacement therapy, that I’ll eclipse my first year of being out as myself at work, that I’ll likely have a couple more publications under my belt, and new karate belts at that. Even in the deadest parts of winter, that gives me life.

The same is true for you, reader. And what’s more, the 2019 calendar serves as a relatively blank slate, during which I know you, too, will manifest incredible things. What stories will we write, will we read, in 2019? What character developments will we remark of ourselves at the year’s close?

It’s somewhat ironic that the worst time of the winter for many people coincides with the start of the new year and the expectation of a fresh start, #NewYearNewYou. It’s at times like these, in the armpit of the winter that we need to remind ourselves that this literal early darkness is impermanent, that the beaches of Cape Neddick and York won’t be shut down forever.

Sure, living in a tourist town means acknowledging the coastal calendar, and in some senses living by it: the bustling months, the intervening quiet months of September through November, the dead winter months. But I imagine as summer punts my way more frustrating tourist traffic than ever, I’ll crave the silent snowy nights during which I sit by our bedroom sill and stir up new stories to keep us warm.

Shalen Lowell

Shalen Lowell is an author and poet from southern Maine. They were also voted least likely to be an ENTJ Slytherin, but here we are.

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