Although this post is mainly about the sun, I must first take a little trip down memory lane: On December 31st, 2010 we arrived in the Netherlands to the surreal experience of Dutch New Years on jetlag–every man, woman and child for himself launching legal and illegal fireworks into the air, the neighbors, nearby automobiles; people of all ages standing on their stoops til 2 or 3am entangled in the general chaos and liveliness. Late the following afternoon we emerged from the tumble of sleeping bags on my in-laws dining room floor, and rubbed our eyes into the new year.
Aware of our Southern California orientation to sunshine, my mother-in-law smartly suggested a walk in the park to catch a few rays before the short day was over. I had to snicker when I saw people bundled up on the benches with their eyes closed, faces tipped upward, as if willing the sun to stay a little longer. How sad for you all, I thought, thinking of the brilliant, unstoppable sun I had seen just the day before as we had left Santa Barbara.
Fast forward fifteen months to mid March, 2012 and I know that these people with their faces raised toward the sun are my people. We head out when the first sunray breaks through the blanket of fog to soak in the light.
All those layers and gloves and hats and scarves and thick socks and boots just for a few minutes of sunshine? Why all the fuss?
According to Sunshinevitamin.org, we make 90 percent of our vitamin D by exposing our skin to sunlight. And what’s the big deal about Vitamin D? Sufficient intake of Vitamin D actually reduces the risk of cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and helps us maintain higher levels of Serotonin–you know, that happy drug that keeps SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) away. Dang! So when I found myself on a bench in the park this winter in my three quarter length coat, eyes closed, face tipped toward the sky, I was self-prescribing in a good way.
But I’m still green when it comes to coercing the weather to evolve into something that more appropriately resembles spring or summer. These hardcore seasonal activists are unofficially referred to as zomerafdwingers, or summer enforcers. Arie Jan overheard this term in a cafe in Amsterdam a few weeks ago. A couple observed some people sitting on the patio when it was far to cold be sitting outside. “Zij zijn zomerafdwingers,” they concluded.
Zomerafdwingers are ruthless when it comes to their job. Nevermind that it’s freezing cold outside. They ask for the patio seating because the sun is shining. Forget that the canals are only halfway through the thaw. It’s mid February and by God, they shall wear stockings with a mini skirt and heels under their winter coats. The wind is howling through the naked forest on a single digit day, but the sun is out. And there goes another zomerafdwinger running in a t-shirt and shorts.
Perhaps this practice is a form of Dutch black magic as it seems to be working. It was warm enough today to sit in our garden and sip on a home made latte. And there in that tepid sunshine, I saw our first tulip in bloom.
Ben jij ook een zomerafdwinger? Keep it up!