Story and photos by Jill O'Brien
After less than nine hours of daylight, the sky reaches down, touches the earth and the two seal up like a clam—leaving us in the heavy murkiness of night. For those who need the light, the weight of darkness can be crushing. To maintain wellness we look for light elsewhere during these hours—in the glow of a fire, the flicker of a candle, the smile of a child, and we hunker down and wait for morning to return.
Outside in the prairie’s pitch blackness, the opposite is happening with the wildlife. Winter's silence is broken by the howls of coyotes alerting each other to their whereabouts. The nighttime predators, from cats to skunks, slip through the shadows mostly unnoticed in search of their next meal. And the buffalo are on the move, grazing to stay warm and nourished—sustaining enough calories to get them through.
For us humans who live in sub-zero, winter temperatures, it is difficult to get excited about going out and about. It's scary enough in the daytime and can be seriously dangerous at night, not to mention the layers and layers of weighty clothing one must put on to fend off the life-threatening elements. Perhaps if it were necessary to find our next meal, there would be more incentive. This is when I’m perfectly happy to stay pent-up, grateful for the modern conveniences of food in the larder, and the appliances that house and heat the food.
During the deep winter, I no longer try to fight the darkness—instead, I give into it with a winter hibernation sleep pattern and go to bed early. Early to bed means early to rise and the coffee is made long before there is any sign that time has moved forward, even though ten hours have passed.
On the cold, lightless, weekend mornings when the rush to start your day isn’t necessary, the aroma of coffee beckons the accompaniment of sausage and a stack of pancakes with real maple syrup. The warm, golden elixir glows as it's poured over the cakes, swirling with the butter before it drips over the edges like a slow-moving waterfall. I like my pancakes thin, with crispy edges and a creamy, malty flavor. The first bite is instant pleasure and it lingers all the way to the last bite of the sausage that mopped the plate of any remaining sticky goodness. Although I am heavy with happiness, I am also filled with a light, warm-fuzzy feeling.
Then the morning show begins: A crack in the seal appears in the form of a thin red ribbon, prying the sky loose from the earth. A new day is dawning, with each day a little earlier than the last.
On many of these mornings the winter clouds loom heavy and low, threatening to leave your bright day in a shroud of whiteness. The whiteness is beautiful though, as the light seeps through, spotlighting only the things that can touch it.
The whiteness continues to fall downward past the light, blanketing the prairie with snow and weighing it down with its glistening garb.
But, it is magical—and in the magic of it, we know it will disappear, we just don’t know when. So we cope with the winter weight the best way we know how, and although that coping is different for each of us, I personally recommend long sleep, with “weekend” breakfasts of sausage and pancakes covered in golden maple syrup. That’s how the light gets in.
p.s. Our Wild Idea Breakfast Sausage is included in this month’s special. I’ll include my recipe for pancakes too! Just don’t tell Jared. ;) (Jared’s, Mr. January's/Paleo Story can be read here.)