Friday, November 25, 2011

Of a Gloomy Day

While I love bright, warm, sunny days, there is much to be said for Edgar Allen Poe, Heathcliff-on-the Moors days. They add balance and give time for reflection and a sense of inner calm and contentment. Being inside and warm, looking out through rain-streaked windows at low, dark clouds, trees swaying in the wind, a dark, brooding day can create a sense of pleasant melancholy. Rainy days lend themselves to contemplation of things not usually given much thought on sunny days. It's as though there's a subtle mental shift from the physical to the cerebral. Life takes on a slower pace--things don't appear to be quite so rushed.

And though gloomy days best lend themselves to solitary pleasures--reading, listening to music, the rare luxury of contemplation and quiet introspection, sharing them with a friend or two in quiet conversation has its own unique quiet pleasures. And in the word "quiet," I think, lies the key to gloomy days. (One of my favorite synonyms for "gloomy," is "lugubrious"...a delicious sounding, seldom heard word, though it is a probably a little excessive for the intent of this blog.)

Gloomy days whisper "there's no rush," a message we need to hear, but which tends to be lost or too easily ignored on sunny days. Unfortunately, too many people unfairly equate gloomy days with boredom or lethargy, when they need be neither.

When I lived in the snow belt of the Great North Woods where 3-foot snowfalls were not uncommon, I loved looking out the window at the snow blowing horizontally past the windows and both hearing and feeling the wind throwing itself against the house. I loved it. (Getting outside and shoveling a path to my car, then digging the car out and clearing a path to the road in the subzero cold, however, somewhat balanced the pleasure of being inside looking out.)

There is an actual medically-recognized condition, Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can result in severe depression for those deprived of sunlight for too long a period. It's quite common in areas of the country such as far northern Wisconsin, where I lived for many years where long winters can tend to be wearing. The condition's appropriate acronym, S.A.D., can be countered by light therapy using a lightbox emitting far more lumens than a customary incandescent lamp.

But for those who merely appreciate the variety the occasional gloomy day presents, rain is calmative, smoothing the sharper edges of what might under other circumstances have been sadder thoughts, memories, and recollections, and softens the sting from self recriminations and regrets.

It is the different, the unexpected, which provide the spices of life. It can be the gradual movement of an all day or several day event, or relatively quick and surprising. Summer thunderstorms, preceded by black clouds sweeping across the sky and the far-off but advancing cymbal-clash flashes of lightning and deep tympani booms of thunder are, to me, the last notes of a celestial symphony, the heavy rain sounding like applause. And when a storm is over, Mother Nature sometimes gives us a curtain call in the form of a rainbow.

One of my fondest weather memories of living in Northern Wisconsin was standing in my back yard and watching a weather front moving toward me from west to east. A ruler-straight line drawn from northern horizon to southern horizon divided sharp blue sky to the east of the line with an unbroken wall of black clouds to the west. An amazing sight.

Good weather encourages us to get out, to focus our body and our mind on exterior things. But the next time dark clouds move in, look on them as an invitation to spend some pleasant time inside--both your house and your mind.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

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