Seasonal Affective Disorder

I read in Thoreau last night “It is surprising how any reminiscence of a different season of the year affects us. When I meet with any such in my Journal, it affects me as poetry, and I appreciate that other season and that particular phenomenon more than at the time. . . . You only need to make a faithful record of an average summer day’s experience and summer mood, and read it in the winter, and it will carry you back to more than that summer day alone could show.”

Banking on the restorative effect of doing just that, I pored through a stack of my Moleskine journals, looking for a memory of summer to help me plow through the depths of despondency of this relentless winter. Thoreau was right. Just reminding myself that winter does end, that different seasons make up our lives, both literally and figuratively, was helpful in pulling me from the edge. So here, in the middle of Endless Winter, I hope this glimpse of Potential Summer eases the pain of the present:

For hours now I have been sitting in a cheap plastic chair under the trees, while inside the house the AC accumulates to an uncomfortable frigidity. Out here the temperature is unvarying, a steady, blowing current of perfect air washing over me. It is just a notch down from windy and a peg up from breezy–an undulating rhythm of blowing that stirs the air mostly enough to keep the perpetual swarms of gnats and flies at bay.

At mid-summer now (real, not equinoxal), all is green. The incessant rains of June have fed the color, making the yard a watercolor of hues, endless variations on green. Underneath the maple, a mound of crown vetch is a glossy blue-green, while the pine woods to my right, now also overgrown with volunteer deciduous,too thick for the sun to penetrate, is also a true forest green. In the distance before me, the line of trees which I know line Sugar Grove Road are equally dark on their undersides, though paler on their sun sides, and from here seem to be static, untouched by the breezes that toss the tree branches over my head.

The lawn is splashed with sun in ragged patches, so that the grass directly under the trees is darkest, with the branch shade paling out further, until the rare unshadowed lawn is a pale lemon green. Flecks of fallen leaves are a whitish green accent. The corn in the field across the road is broad leaved and more malleable to the wind’s suggestion, so it whips wildly in its ragged rows, the undersides of the stalks emerald in the sun, with the light-facing blades a translucent, shimmering vivid green. The hairlike strands of grasses at the road’s edge are a browned, desiccated green, flattened in patches, tangled by the wind into the undergrowth.

The branches above me are the most variegated: on a single branch, more hues exist than I could paint or reproduce with words. Splotches, tossed, fluttering, clumped, layered, even ponderously hanging, weight of branches drooping them nearly to the ground. Clustered, patchy, mottled and starkly outlined, living art sways above me. I am the mannequin in the cheap plastic chair planted as contrast for the museum display. Everyone knows that I am not the art, but only the implied audience to the glory around me.

Though everywhere there is green, until there seems no space for another color, occasional swatches of contrast divide the canvas, block off the greens: grey-brown plated bark of the huge maple, the smoother, paler browns of the blue spruce trunks, with amber disks where branches were hewn, the streak of grey asphalt dividing ditch from lawn, delicate arcs of peeling white birch trunks, dull earth showing in patches between sparse grass.

Nearly the only sound is the incessant blowing of branches, the gusting of earth’s breath. Between heaves, the far off coo-coo-coo-ah of mourning doves wafts through the silence. The world is newly created. There are no humans here, for I am only a mannequin, not the center of focus but only a rapt audience to this wonder.


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