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Monochrome season
Monochrome season

Monochrome season

monochrome seasonNo one talks about it, but there’s a fifth season. We all know spring, summer, fall, and winter. But there is a fifth, stealthy season that we all know exists but no one acknowledges.

Today starts monochrome season.

It’s the season that calls itself winter but those of us living in a true wintry climate know better. It’s more than winter, it’s advanced winter. It is a season of one color, one flavor, one emotion, one feeling. No longer living in a 3D plane but flat and cold and stretched thin.

I am dealing with this winter better than the previous dozen combined. Usually by this point of the season I’m grimly marching through the days, determined to get through to spring so help me. Last winter that resulted in a bone-deep chill, a severe flare up of TMJ, full-out jaw spasm, and cracked teeth complete with advanced dental work. I don’t screw around. These days I wear enough layers to make a mummy jealous, own so many wool socks that sheep are putting hits out on me, and overall feel pretty good. Right now I don’t so much care that I’m fluffy and squishy, I’m warm. So this winter? I’m in a much better place mentally and emotionally.

And yet monochrome season still stabs me in the heart. There’s nothing to anticipate in monochrome season. We’re past the holidays, long past any kind of winter weather pleasure, Punxsutawney Phil has given his opinion and gone back to sleep, the Super Bowl is over (aside…what the hell, Broncos? Seriously? You had the most infreakingcredible season and you piss down your leg like you’ve never been in the postseason? Did the date of the game sneak up on you? ‘Cause you forgot to show up! Pfft…I must have made the wrong bread after all…) Cabin fever is running rampant and god help me it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. There are, at minimum, six long grey weeks between now and anything not grey. And with the winter Chicago is having, it’s likely going to be eight weeks or longer. The only bright spot is that we finally caved and bought a snowblower on Saturday, so when we get the anticipated two feet of snow this next week we’re not out there slogging through it with shovels and profanity. The Dropkick Murphys’ “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” can only get me so far with the driveway clearing.

The light is flat, just shades of grey as far as the eye can see, no color anywhere. Even the most brightly colored sports car is muted, scaly with the salty backsplash from the roads. The bare trees just dark slashes against the sky. Snow piles are white, off-white, grayish white, whitish grey, salty white, sooty white, sandy white, and icy white. Sound is muted, filtered through scarves and hats and hoods and earmuffs. Taste…nothing tastes right. It’s all flat, monotonous, contemptible with its familiarity. Scents are dull and boring from the cold and aridity. Everything is scratchy against the skin, clingy, cold, and blah.

I first noticed monochrome season in February 2006, and for the longest time it felt like time just stopped there. Even now it sometimes feels like February 2006. Every day is just like the one before. Get up, get cleaned up, get a kid up and out the door, poke the bear, struggle through edumacating the kid, head to work and/or teach flute lessons, feed the faces, corral everyone into bed, wrap up the day, fall into bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Everything is just…flat. And cold. And grey. And weeks to go until I wake.

If you’re in warmer climes you probably don’t understand this. You have warm breezes on your skin and soft sun through the window and don’t have to put on several layers just to take out the trash. But here, in the great frozen tundra, I’m sure you get it. I’m not depressed, I’m just winter weary. It doesn’t help that this is on track to be one of the most memorable Chicago winters, breaking records left and right. I was a kindergartener when the infamous winter of 1978/79 blasted through; I was really happy until now to never repeat it and it looks like we may leave that one in the dust this year.

So let’s band together, winter weary friends. We can’t let monochrome season win. It will eventually warm and our senses will awaken again.

It just can’t happen soon enough.


  1. Hi, Girlfriend! WE just bought a snowblower last Sunday. 😛 It’s been getting PLENTY of use. The boys took it to my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses after doing ours, and both neighbors’ houses.

    Stay warm, my friend. I hear there’s more snow coming. ;-/

  2. It happens to me every January and February, even when I lived in Nevada and had sunlight almost every day (“Dear God it’s so brown here I can’t stand it”) and now I live in Oregon where it never gets too cold (“Dear God it’s so gray and brown here–okay, except for the grass and the evergreens–how did I ever think this place was beautiful?”).

    I am envying everyone else’s bad weather this year. Send it our way and give me an excuse to break out my snow gear. Please. Except I’m not shoveling jack (didn’t even move our shovel with us when we left the Sierras).

    But not too much longer before the daphne blooms. Once the daphne blooms, I know it’s almost over and I remember why I moved here.

    1. Jen

      Yeah, me too, even in Denver where it gets warm in the winter. And always sunny. For over a decade I’ve sworn that *next year* I’ll take a warm and sunny vacation in February, and it’s never happened and never will.
      If I could send you this show, trust me, I would. I’m over it. This is the longest and most brutal winter I’ve experienced in over 20 years. And it’s at least two months before snow starts to melt, much less anything bloom. :p

  3. Our winters are comparatively mild. I get, instead, the blazing season–where everything is white hot and, because of the heat, cabin fever sets in. It’s brutal in its own way. There’s something like winter SAD that sets in it and it is soul-crushing. I have empathy for you. GREAT empathy.

      1. I’ve never experienced a cabin-fever winter. But I’m well and truly sick of this cabin-fever summer. You know it’s bad when 30C is a cool change. And there’s no escape from the heat – even the big shopping centre’s air-conditioning doesn’t work, it’s too full of people, and public transport stops when the mercury goes over 28C. Getting stuck on trains with broken air-con ain’t fun :p And you can’t think in the heat. Going for a walk after 7am or before 9pm is a nightmare…I so look forward to autumn, even winter. Hugs from down-under.

        1. Jen

          Dear god, 90F is COOL? That’s miserable. Sadly, I’m just a wee bit jealous, and I know that’s probably going to be Chicago this summer. :/ This weather worldwide is crazypants.

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