Managing the Grey

When we visited Dunnottar Castle on the day the haar rolled in (thick fog off the North Sea), we participated in a true definition of ‘grey.’ I had read about ‘grey’ in books set in Great Britain — the characters stayed indoors and played in attics or drank tea in rooms with low ceilings. As I sat in a stone window seat of Dunnottar’s keep, I knew this was that grey: its sound was the waves beating their spray upon the cliffs, its look was the mangled light left by the haar, and its feeling was what seeped through the woven flaws in my coat and pinched my skin. Scotland.

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There’s a northernness to Scotland grey. It smells of steel and centuries and strength. But then there’s the fact that you live with it day to day, so when you’re tired or when you’ve sat still for too long it’s the grey of moldy bread forgotten in a castle — unnourishing, stale, and depressing.

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(On the left: a picture of the sun at noon in the southern sky.)

I’ve learned to recognize when I’m seeing the moldy grey instead of the steely grey. It happens mostly on the days of 6 hours of daylight, daylight that’s held at bay by thick clouds and cold. Here are some of my tricks to thawing the moment:

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Have a cuppa.
A cup of tea is comforting. This is my go-to remedy for grey. While the tea is fresh and too hot to drink, I cuddle it to my chest and refer to it as ‘my heater.’

Keep green things in the house.
I house stalks of grass and cut flowers in glass vases and jars, and I place them in important rooms (usually the kitchen, because I spend the most time in there). They alter the atmosphere in a room, somehow. God put his humans in a garden, so I put some garden in my home.

Use the oven and stove.
I’ll bake things when I’m cold, or start cooking dinner early. The anticipation of a warm, nourished gut gets my blood excited. That combined with the heat from the oven or stove lifts the grey mood in the house.  (Though I’m sure to close the kitchen door and vent the room somehow, or my typical UK mold problem will double.)

Do pushups.
I’m serious. When the cold seems incurable, I drop and give 10. It gets my heart rate up and puts a flush in my cheeks; it’s an immediate remedy! My practice is usually to bundle up first so the generated heat stays in my possession.

Play music.
Music rouses my soul. It colors the air. It makes lamp light feel more hearty and grey sunlight less damp. And at times dancing ensues — good for the heart and entertainment for the baby.

String up fairylights.
They’re magical. I have them in the kitchen. In my opinion, the best thing to wake up to is a sunrise over the Scottish hills, but in the winter this isn’t possible as the sun doesn’t rise until 8:30 and I am the mother of a toddler. Fairylights’ (US “twinklelights”), with their diffused light and warming wink, are the next best thing. Who says Christmas has the monopoly on the use of these things anyway?

Hoover.
I get that thing out and with all my might I rid the floor of dust. By the end, I’ve usually shed most of my layers, plus made room in my calorie count for those scones in the oven. And the house is a nicer space to occupy — being indoors in the dark at 3:45pm is suddenly more bearable.

Put on a scarf.
This traps in the heat like nothing else. I am bold and wear them indoors.

Have a cuddle (especially with a wee bairn).
Heat shared warms the heart as well (caption for a Kinkade painting?).
(Cuddle = US ‘hug/snuggle’; wee bairn = US ‘child’)

Turn on the hair dyer.
And stick it under your sweater.

Read poetry.
That’s a cure for any emotional malady. Turn that soggy perspective upside down. Grey is still grey… but now it’s located it in the difference between moldy and steely.

Eat haggis.
It will heat you up and make you a man. According to Robbie Burns.
Honestly though, the suet and spices  and lamb in haggis were engineered for eaters in desolate, stone towers, and it’s obvious from the first bite.  I love haggis. It makes me want to slay something in the highlands. With my bare hands.

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And if none of these options works, getting in bed with the covers over my head in the middle of the day while wearing all my layers is also a viable option. Though for some reason it feels akin to surrender.

Carpe that grey!

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I’m curious — how do you turn back the grey?

Here

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Blebo Craigs is our new town. (Isn’t the name delightfully ticklish? Be sure you say it out loud.) Blebo is a tiny village of sixty houses spread over the side of a hill. It’s made of low stone walls and tidy gardens. The fields in between the stone houses are filled with sheep or wheat or woods. The people often go walking in the woods. They know the names of each other’s dogs and they have tea in each other’s houses. Things are not severely ordered here: the roads are not labeled and the houses don’t have numbers;  instead, each house has a name: ‘Nethermil,’ ‘Loanhead Cottage,’ ‘The Lea Rig.’  A hobbit would look on Blebo and deem it proper and good, in every hobbit-sense of those words.

It’s quiet out here. The air is quiet and the dried roses left on their summer stalks are quiet. I move about the house and feel the quiet as I fold laundry and shelve books.

Everything real and earthy is here. Wind and crops and stone and sky. There are paths on which to set my feet, and a hot kettle to call them home.

To state the simple fact: I like it here.

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