Beat the Blues

Winter is an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of bare trees silhouetted against the sky. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.

If the onset of winter triggers you to sleep too much and devour comfort food, you are not alone. Many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a change in mood during the winter months that comes as a result of seasonal light cycle variation. Others might feel sluggish or down in a way that’s not quite SAD, but is still less than ideal. There are many therapies, including light machines and vitamins, but one of the best remedies is to take some aerobic exercise outside in sunlight—and where better to do that than BBG.

So says Lynne Spevack, a psychologist for 25 years, and BBG tour guide for 20. She’s leading a series of Chase Away the Winter Blues tours at the Garden this winter. I took her December tour; there will be others the first Sunday of each month through March.

Spevack designed these tours to bring people together to experience the beauty of winter, rather than hide from it. Each one delves into a different aspect of the winter landscape. December’s tour explored the beauty of trees—from those that retain leaves and needles, to those that bare their branches and reveal silhouettes against the sky. Many of the trees Spevack identified are common NYC street trees, but in the Garden, with more space and soil to grow, some look at first very different from the ones I’ve seen lining the pavement. The twenty-three of us on the tour looked high into the canopies, ahead to the varied bark textures, and down to the ground for pinecones and fallen leaves, and we began to notice patterns and predict tree names. We all shared what we knew and noticed— one bright younger member of the tour pointed out that an unlabeled tree had five needles per fascicle, and so the tree must be a white pine.

It was one of the first really chilly days, but when we paused in the sunlight, the warmth beat down on my face and illuminated a stand of white birch trees and I could really appreciate how the crisp air and a good dose of nature in the coming months could ward off the doldrums one walk at a time.

The tours are free and start at 1pm from the visitor’s center. The next one will be January 8, and will challenge participants to use all of their senses to experience the outdoors. So bring your mittens, but be prepared to take them off!


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