Posts Tagged With: winter

January Depression

Thirty years ago, I began to notice the predictable pattern of my own depression every January. Over the years, I’ve kept a journal periodically. All I needed to do was look back at previous Januarys to see, sure enough, the same behavioral blueprint. It wasn’t hard to figure out.

  • The excitement of Christmas was over.
  • The days were shorter.
  • There was illness in the air.
  • We stayed indoors more.
  • The obituary list in the newspaper was longer.

January depression is no secret.

Situational sadness is not the same as clinical despondency or hopelessness, but, still, I learned to take the symptoms seriously.

My first clue was the television series Northern Exposure, which aired an episode on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

It’s not the same as cabin fever, but limited access to the outdoors also plays a part in the problem. When I spent the last two winters in New England, I was surprised at how much more of the season these hardy souls spend outdoors than Southerners do: ice skating, snow skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. I was amazed.

For me, a big chunk of the January blues was good ol’ fashioned post-Christmas (think “post-partum”) melancholy. All the excitement, the church in overdrive, holiday parties, gift giving and receiving, travel, Christmas tree decorating and dismantling, came to a screeching halt.

January is also a time of reality checking. Why else do we make resolutions? We’ve eaten too much, spent too much, and formed bad habits that need to be broken. Yuk. The fantasy of living as if there are no consequences comes to a demoralizing end. We’re going to have to make some changes. No wonder we are dispirited.

No magic list here of Ten Ways to Get Out of Your January Funk. There are probably a thousand websites to tell you that.

The great insight for me was simply to name the demon. I wasn’t just randomly depressed for no good reason. There were a dozen causes for the January doldrums, and I needed to pay attention.


Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

A Carolina Baptist in Two Yankee Winters

For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, I’ve confused my seasons and moved North in the dead of winter. Minus seventeen degrees was the lowest temperature—on a Sunday morning! Church was not cancelled. Here are a few observations:

Calling/Vocation—I didn’t initiate either of these experiences. I’m a retired pastor/preacher/church consultant who lives in South Carolina with my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. During the last fifteen years, I’ve worked with churches in crisis or transition. My skill set is to serve as a “bridge” from their past to their future. Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut, needed help. They called. I responded. It’s a good thing to feel useful. It’s even better to be useful. I’m grateful for all my friends who encouraged and/or prayed for me. Trinity called a fine young pastor and Wilton, I believe, is close to calling someone as their pastor. I’ll keep you posted.

Family—Anyone who knows me understands that family is important. Sally and I have been married 44 years. Our daughter Jenna, son-in-law Thorne, and Grandson Lake live three blocks from Sally and me. They eat supper with us every Sunday night. On the other hand, our daughter Julie and her husband Tom live outside Boston, a long way from South Carolina. I don’t like that distance at all. By being in New England for good chunks of 2016 and 2017, Julie, Tom and I could get together about once every three weeks. I loved, loved, loved those times. Francis Bacon said something like this: “If the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed can go to the mountain.” So, off to New England, I traveled.

Adventure—What’s not to like about a Currier & Ives Winter Wonderland? For someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, New England is an attractive option. Ivy League schools, hockey games, moose, frozen ponds and rivers, all sounded intriguing. Merely sightseeing (no offense to my touristy friends) is not an adventure. Getting out of my comfort zone is. I dreaded the idea of shoveling snow, but that worked out just fine. Also, I was aware of the proximity of New Hampshire to Canada and Connecticut to New York City, so I took advantage of both. I spent a few days in Montreal and several days in Manhattan. I saw four Broadway plays. I toured West Point. I loved the picturesque town squares and greens, as well as the streams, waterfalls, hills and wildlife, the covered bridges, mansions, churches, shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments I discovered all over New England, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Walpole, New Hampshire, to Quechee, Vermont, to New Haven, Connecticut, to Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Lots of beauty, lots of history, and lots of fine food!

(Bonus points for Adventure: Dartmouth College was an intriguing part of my 2016 experience. As the Baptist Student Minister for the campus, I had access to libraries, lectures, and other aspects of campus life. I took continuing education courses.

Serendipity—Food! I’ve never taken a road trip for the sake of a culinary experience, but neither have I shied away from dietary excellence. King Arthur Flour was a highlight of my first winter away—pastries, breads, desserts. Incomparable. The farms of Vermont and New Hampshire produce some of the best cheeses you will ever taste. This year, I discovered the restaurants in the corner of Connecticut where I lived were exceptional, with a commitment to locally grown meat and vegetables. On my last trip into New York City (the train ride costs only $8.50), I determined to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I couldn’t afford most of them—over $300 for a fixed price meal. I discovered NoMad was within my price range, made a reservation, and had one of the great dinners of my life.

Being alone—Traveling by myself has, of course, pluses and minuses. I’ve blogged about that before. I’m comfortable with Quiet Time. I read a lot. I write. I walk. I think. I eat. I read. I eat. I walk. I read. I eat. I’m perfectly content to go to a baseball game, a high school musical, or a museum tour by myself. I prefer to be with someone, but that’s not always possible.

In case I sound a bit too blasé or pious about all this time unaccompanied, let me be clear: both years, I got very lonely. The adventure wore off. I’m sure I don’t want to spend a full winter in New England or apart from Sally again. Sally and I really missed each other. She came up once during each of these sojourns for about a week. Thank God for those occasions when friends or family called or visited or wrote. Sometimes, member of the Trinity and Wilton congregations reached out to me, and sometimes I reached out to them, so I also enjoyed local fellowship.

I’ve reflected about people who have no choice about living alone: widows and widowers. I’m sensitive to the fact that being by yourself is not always a choice. It can be painful. I’m fortunate. I came home to a wife who loves me.

Until the wanderlust strikes again, or, until I get a phone call, whichever comes first, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Why Marion Is Going to New Hampshire for Six Months!

Some of you have seen and heard hints of my next adventure: Six Months in New Hampshire beginning January 6, 2016.

Most of you have asked, “Are you nuts?” New Hampshire? January? Have you ever shoveled snow? (Answer: No.)

For people of faith, Life is a calling. A pilgrimage. New chapters and new challenges. Every major religion expresses the sentiment that the happy person is the one who is content with what life brings: “Thy will be done.” I’ve mostly tried to live that way, and have ended up, without always meaning to, in places such as Malaysia, Mauritania, Brazil, Sweden, Russia, and Greece. Sally and I have friends, because we’ve opened our guest room to strangers, from Latvia, Iran, England, and even North Carolina. Serendipities happen if you let them.

Over the past few years, I have served as a Bridge to an Interim in churches after their pastor has resigned or retired. My dear friends, Ken and Sandy Hale, who have been at Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, for over 30 years, are retiring at the end of this year. Sandy has been the student minister at Dartmouth and Ken has pastored the church. They asked if I would step in during this immediate short-term interim and do what I do: preach, teach, challenge, guide, provide hope. I gladly agreed.

Obviously, this will be a very different travel experience than Napa Valley, Scotland, Italy, or Machu Picchu. It could be a very different spiritual experience than anything I’ve encountered in the Southeast. But I know churches, and I know people, and God/Jesus/Spirit and I are on good terms, so here we go.

Anybody want to donate a snow blower? Or come visit me? I will want visitors! The address where I will be staying is 363 Dartmouth College Highway, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03755. Ya’ll come.

I will be just a couple of hours from my daughter Julie and her husband Tom, near Boston, so I expect to see them often. I’ll meet lots of new folks, good souls, and experience life in the winter in New England. Pray with me and Trinity Baptist Church, and Sally, who I am leaving in South Carolina to tutor her students and to take care of our new kitten, Caesar.

What comes next? Spring! Even in New Hampshire.

Marion Aldridge

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

You Don’t Have to Go Far!

Several weeks ago, in a blog about walking, I might have implied that all of my strolls were meditative in nature, serious communion with God and creation.


Not true.  There are certainly days I am all ears and eyes for the beauty of God’s world.  But, honestly, that is rare.


 Almost all of life is complicated.  Even a simple habit and hobby such as hiking or walking has multiple motivations.


You never know what you will run into if you just leave your house, go out your front door, and wander through your own neighborhood.  I ran into a July 4 Parade that was more fun than anything happening downtown.




Experiences that make me smile do not require plane trips to Peru or car trips to Canada.  I enjoy those too, but close-to-home perambulations can bring pleasant surprises.


One of my friends reminded me, keeping me from being too pious, that when I am in strange places, I have also been known to discover pastry and chocolate shops!  Just go out the front door, wherever you are, and wander.  I do love to find (and eat) good food.  I won an award with an article I wrote about finding my favorite-ever restaurant on a daylong stroll through Brussels, Belgium.


On many occasions, as I walk through my community, I listen to a ball game on the radio or to a podcast on my iPhone.  I need motivation of all kinds to keep me walking, day after day, year after year.


On a beautiful spring day, perfect weather, the pure pleasure of being alive in the outdoors is reward enough.  But in the dead of winter, when it is freezing outside, I tell my wife I am getting ready to take a “character walk.”  Pure discipline is required.  If I can anticipate some payoff that has value in addition to exercise, then that encourages me to keep walking.  (Some people workout on treadmills indoors and watch television while they exercise.  Whatever works for you…)


Since I have been retired for almost five months, I rarely miss a day walking.  I hiked, strolled, and roamed on foot somewhere every day in April and almost every day in May and June.


One other thing:  My neighbors should pay me.  Not only do I pick up money.  I pick up nails.  I have not kept a log of how many nails, screws and sharp objects I find every month, but I know I have prevented a truckload of flat tires.  Every now and then I take a bag with me and pick up cans and bottles so they can be recycled.


Having been a serious walker for ten or more years, I look for motivation anywhere I can find it. 


Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Health, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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