Is it possible to be psychologically traumatised by weather? Sounds pathetic, I know, but I think the Swedish winter has taken a toll on me.
I woke this morning to a relatively clear sky, after a day of drizzly rain yesterday. I was pleasantly surprised. Cycling back from taking Isak to school this morning I found myself wondering why I am surprised when the weather is good. This past week has been lovely – real autumn, with blue skies and changing colours. The vividness of it all fills me with amazement. It makes me happy. When the rain set in yesterday I thought, well that’s it. We can settle down now to 6 months of misery. I was not surprised, but I was disappointed. Resignation.
We have been in Sweden two years. The first year everything was new and exciting, even the rain. The first snows filled me with anticipation about a beautiful white winter which really never eventuated. We had snow and rain and slush for 6 months, and only a few times did we get out with sleds and skis. The second year was worse. Less snow, more rain, and I had started working, an experience which I did not enjoy, what with my lack of language skills, not to mention my complete ignorance of how things work in Sweden. That autumn-winter-spring experience left me depressed and miserable.
This last summer I had a lot of time off. By the end of August, when I went back to work I was feeling as if I was staring to recover my will to live. It was helped by visits from family, and by some lovely times with our family, not just good weather. There was rain in the summer too, but we had some glorious days, hot and sunny, when we swam in lakes and canoed in the wilderness.
But the cooling days, with wind and rain, gave me a vague feeling of dread, a feeling of anxiety about the darkness, coldness and wetness of the days to come. I begin to understand the autumn depression that so many people seem to feel here. It could be a good winter. But it could be awful, just like the last two. Gloomy reports of climate change, which seem so frequent these days, don’t help my mood.
But I have started a new job, closer to home, which means I don’t have to cycle across town everyday in a fog of freezing rain, traffic fumes, and darkness. Now I cycle up through a patch of forest, where the birches are changing colour, their leaves are falling to cover the ground. Up past the school and so to work. I can come home for lunch. What’s more, and to my continual amazement, I can at last both understand what people say, and communicate (roughly) what I want to say back to them. Language has become fun, not a nightmare. Which is an extraordinary experience for a monolinguist like me.
So far the autumn has been lovely. Sweden has started to redeem itself, to my mind at least. I don’t know how the coming winter will be, but I have enough understanding of the reality of this land to have realistic expectations. Psychological trauma, even if it is just from miserable weather, is painful, but with time and God’s grace it is possible to find healing and hope, even in the darkness of winter.