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By Robert Graef January rain
This is more like winter. A Puget Sound winter, that is. No more snow to reflect bright moon and star light onto my bedroom window. No smooth white blanket obscuring rotting autumn foliage. I like snow and might enjoy shoveling it if only I had a snow shovel. Snow is beautiful. No matter how deep it gets, it can never be as depressing as rain.
But now we’re back to the real thing; clammy, drizzly and dark, the sort of winter that wrings depressing images from poets. And from the entire world of poetry there is nothing, absolutely nothing that catches the mood of a Puget Sound winter so well as Ogden Nash’s So Penseroso, which begins:
“Come megrims, mollygrubs and collywobbles,
Come gloom that limps and misery that hobbles.”
How’s tat for a start? Kind of catches the mood of the season, doesn’t it. It resonates with the Winter hDepression Syndrome (WDS) that keeps Psychologists busy at this time of year. It links with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and its flu-like symptoms. If you’re not feeling tip-top, chances are you’ve caught one of them. Not to worry, it’ll pass in April. Or even March in a good year. But for now we’re stuck with the gloom that Nash eloquently described.
“Come also most exquisite melancholiage,
As dark and decadent as November foliage.
I crave to shudder in your moist embrace,
To feel your oystery fingers upon my face.”
To pen those lines, Nash must certainly have been trapped under the wintry Puget Sound Convergence Zone that we know all too well. It’s the weather that keeps me from walking to the street to get the mail. This is don’t-drive-at-night weather when illumination from headlights bounces off inky wet pavement without bothering to light my way.
No WDS or CFS for me. My long-time affliction with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) qualifies me as a spokesman for that weather-induced condition. SAD is a recurrent winter or seasonal depression characterized by excessive sleeping, social withdrawal, depression and overeating. SAD particularly affects those who live in the upper latitudes. Like Marysville.
During the SAD season sun lotion is been pushed to the back of the shelf and Chapstick comes to the fore. As often as not, dinner is some kind of soup. Extra blanket on the bed. Wooly socks in place of dress-socks in my sock-drawer. Houseplants migrate closer to windows to harvest moments of meager daylight.
Meanwhile, Rick Steves’ travelogues drive me insane with jealousy. While frigid rain pelts my roof, Rick narrates his way along Portugal’s sunny Algarve, Italy’s Cinque Terra, Spain’s Costa Brava. Nothing but images of sun-tanned senoritas frolicking on golden beaches or sweaty tourists quaffing frosty drinks on ocean-view terraces. Not fair!
“This is my hour of sadness and soulfulness
And cursed be he who dissipates my dolefulness.”
Favorite ways of combating the condition are turning on enough lights to require indoor sunglasses and frequent roasting in front of a gas-fired fireplace insert until breaking a sweat. A tropical umbrella drink helps to create a momentary fiction of seasonal well-being. If only taking out the garbage wouldn’t return me to a state of melancholy.
“Melancholy is what I brag and boast of,
Melancholy I mean to make the most of.
You beaming optimists shall not destroy it
But while I’m at it I tend to enjoy it.”
There is little joy in going to work in the dark and returning home in the dark. Grim beaches, unplayable golf courses, vacant parks. Meanwhile in the lower latitudes, people loll about swimming pools dousing each other with sun lotion. Jolly foursomes book early tee-times to avoid the noonday sun. No, it just isn’t fair.
Is it too much to ask for the earth to bobble on its axis now and then to align us with the sun’s best efforts? If not that, how about a little continental drift to drop us down to say, 34 degrees of latitude, about where San Diego stands today. Such things can’t happen that fast you say? Then how about next year? My state of mind is at risk.
“I want to be drunk with despair,
I wish to caress my care.
I do not wish to be blithe,
I wish to recoil and writhe.”
Nash’s verse is such a fit for winter blues. Wherever he was when he wrote those lines, I wouldn’t want to go there. Trouble is, one look out the window suggests that I might be there. Maybe I should be thankful that we suffer no more than dispiriting winter gloom while so much of the world gets hammered by hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes. Maybe so, but when it comes to the effect of winter weather on our sense of well-being, Ogden Nash hit the nail on the head.
“I will revel in cosmic woe,
And I want my woe to show.
This is the morbid moment,
This is the ebony hour.”
November, December, January, February. I’m counting the days until a change of season lightens spirits and stirs a primal urge to get outside to scratch around in the soil. Until then, Ogden Nash said it all.
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