Fog, gray skies, short dark days, rain: all have been the daily palette during these post-holiday winter months. Even the colorful lights of December have dimmed. What has settled over the valley with the heavy skies is a collective brain fog for many people. Even a brief ray of sunshine lifts the spirits, brightens the soul.
There’s a reason vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin. The body needs exposure to sunlight to synthesize vitamin D3. Studies suggest a link between vitamin D and a healthy immune system. Acting more like a hormone, vitamin D also helps regulate mood.
Without Ol’ Sol in the winter, we are missing an essential ingredient to combat the winter blues, or its more severe form called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are the best food source of vitamin D. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, including breakfast cereals and milk. A supplement is often recommended, especially in latitudes above 37 degrees north — wherein the Methow lies.
That is my lay knowledge of the sunshine vitamin. What we really would like to see this time of year is more sunshine, longer days, and ice melt.
The fog often has an ethereal beauty about it as it weaves its gossamer trail across the valley floor. Sometimes, if you climb up, you might find that blue sky does exist; it’s just above the clouds! However, when fog socks in like a weighted blanket, it can become a mood dampener — unlike an actual weighted blanket that is thought to stimulate production of serotonin, the mood-boosting hormone.
For a look on the brighter side, we don’t have tule fog — a thick ground fog that settles in the Central Valley of California from late fall to early spring. The phenomenon is named after the tule grass wetlands of the area. Tule fog can reduce visibility rapidly going from 10 feet to near zero in a few feet. It is the leading cause of weather-related accidents in California. The largest pile-up caused by tule fog included 108 passenger vehicles and 18 big rigs in 2007. Makes our valley fog — by comparison — fairly innocuous.
Until our sunshine reappears, there are some well-known things that can be helpful: fresh air, social activities, good sleep, healthy diet, hobby or activity that sparks joy, meditation, exercise routine, even a light therapy lamp. If all else fails, just hang in there. These clouds and brain fog will pass. Then, we best not complain about the hot sun!
Music, too, can be a picker-upper. A recent Methow Arts presentation, “Parlor in the Round,” entertained a full house at the Winthrop Barn with music, humor and improvisation. Alaskan artist Rosie Rush, Seattle artist Debbie Miller, and the Methow Valley’s artist Ken Bevis delighted the audience with their own songs and then covered a song of one of the other artists. The finale was a song that the three corroborated to write in a very short time — the resulting tune based on phrases turned in by the audience such as “my horse knows how I feel” submitted by our Twisp columnist!