In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

What would you do if you received a belated holiday greeting using the Shakespearean sonnet, in part, to say, “How like a winter hath my absence been from thee, the pleasure of the fleeting years! What freezings have I felt, what dark days seem! What old December’s everywhere!”

The prediction of meteorologists might be right, foretelling a winter of great extremes in temps with accompanying extremes in Lake Effect.

To prepare yourself, you turn from the card to Wikipedia to find out what others might say about winter, right? You look it up, and find this obvious statement: “Humans are sensitive to cold.” No kidding!

Well, I suppose Wikipedia hasn’t heard about the good side: winter sports, Winter Carnival, snowball fights, photographing its beauty and lavishing in its miracle in general. On the other hand, there is black ice to drive or slip on, shoveling the white stuff by the hour, trying to drive safely in traffic, colds, flu, frostbite, cabin fever and other seasonal ills.

According to common knowledge, winter reaches its full strength in our area by the Winter Solstice – in December – and peaks on the 21st, the shortest day of the year. That’s when the tilt of our earth has caused sun’s rays to reach us most obliquely and so at their weakest. And that’s when the days begin to lengthen as the earth re-tilts itself in our favor – but, according to American Indians, that’s also when winter really goes into a deep freeze, piles of the white stuff comes down like sifted flour and we get the feeling that spring will never come.

Last year was on record as the warmest ever recorded, emboldening the “changing weather” fear of a Global Warming. And yet, looking back, we find the opposite true – that there have been record winter freezings when the winter blues, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), brought on worries to the contrary.

Way back to 1683, “The Great Frost” froze the River Thames all the way to the London Bridge and remained nearly a foot thick for months. Here, 1816 was the “Year Without a Summer,” due to the eruption of an Indonesian volcano that clouded the sky around the globe and cooled the entire summer.

There were record cold temperatures in the Upper Midwest, when heavy snowfalls worldwide and the “Schoolhouse Blizzard” in 1888 and the “Great Blizzard” of the same year in Eastern U.S. brought fear that they might wipe out the following seasons. And more recently the winter of 1977 was declared one of the coldest winters in the U.S. for decades. Winter of 2011 was persistently bitter cold in our Eastern states, with cool conditions persisting into spring, resulting in heavy precipitation into early May. The erratic world wild climate changes continue to arouse questions.

Meanwhile winter exists and so do the ongoing issue of coping with health problems, some of which can be solved simply by wearing clothing suitable to the season. But it’s common knowledge that a lack of sunshine induces vitamin D3 deficiency, which, incidentally, can lead to depression encouraging an increased use of D3 supplements during those darker days.

It’s also wise to add a high level of Omega-3 to your daily diet to help stabilize moods and emotions. A little more magnesium in the diet could help to calm nerves and relieve depression.

There are also four herbs said to relieve SAD symptoms. One is St. John’s wort, growing wild in early summers around here, that makes a delicious herbal tea; if taken in late fall before winter actually sets in, it seems to relieve mild to moderate depression, but it’s good anytime.

Lemon balm is another traditional herb that can be boiled as tea for tension, headaches, and depression. The same can be said of chamomile tea for taking the edge off cabin fever. Valerian root has relaxing qualities that can be used in conjunction with the above herbs, often mixed with lemon balm or other similar herbs to mask its unpleasant taste. It can also be purchased in pill or gel form.

For those philosophically inclined, there is more than Shakespeare’s wry comment about our season of discontent when he thoughtfully wrote, “Winter tames man, woman and beast.”

Alexander Pope wrote of winter’s blessings: “O Winter, king of intimate delights – fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness, and all the comforts that the lowly roof of undisturb’d retirement, and the hours of long uninterrupted ev’ning, know.”

Finally, there is Shelly’s sage, hopeful thought: “O Wind, if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Rotten Tomatoes averages: “Mama,” B-; “The Last Stand,” C+; “Broken City,” D+.