Ah, screw it. I’m happy as hell that it’s a dark, rainy day. The dimness balms jangled, irritated nerves that a sunny day would rub raw.
Most people I know welcome the arrival of spring. Redbuds push, lilacs bloom, and dogwoods display their color. Aromas of grass and flowers fill the air. Green filigrees the London plane trees along the boulevards and park erupt in birdsong. Breezes from the west brush away the last vestiges of winter and the world awakens to new life. People open as the flowers and trees do, the light and the length of days brightening their moods and bringing them out of the cocoons.
But so what? Spring doesn’t make me happy. I want dark and rainy, cold. When other people and animals hibernate, winter dark brings out the best in me. Getting out of bed in the morning comes easy in the late dawn. I am cheerful and a good snow only elevates my mood. I wince, it is true, when the sun comes out full on a world the snow covers. Even then, the days shorten so that evening twilight and night ease any discomfort the light creates.
This year we hardly had a winter. From November to March 20, I stood in anticipation of that 18 inches of snow that would stuff most of us inside. I would have gotten out in it. Snow like that means cross-country skis and fires in the backyard.
Unfortunately, only a few days reached below 20 degrees. Sun shown days on end. I shielded my eyes when I went outside. Lost to us, to me, was the long, dark weeks when the world seems to sleep and dream. Almost without a break from the season, the days lengthened. I grieved the passing of the winter solstice, knowing that without a significant shift in my fortunes, spring would be on me.
I have a theory: Back when my ancestors inhabited caves in the mountains of northern Germany, someone had to go out in the winter to hunt animals and forage for wood. While everyone else stayed in the cave and slept through the winter, I and my kind were out providing for the clan. In the spring, we grumped around and maintained it was someone else’s turn. The winter hunters went in the cave to sleep off the work they had done all winter.
When my predecessors moved from hunting and gathering to farming, I was the guy who got out in the cold mornings to tend the animals and break the ice on the water. People like me made the farm work in the winter. In spring, we slept late and tended harness in the afternoon. It was up to someone besides us to get up in the morning. When our complaints and protestations didn’t work, we turned to drink, which made the bright light of the lengthening spring days tolerable.
So, there. My theory explains my moaning about the longer days and my alcoholism. I sticking by it until someone convinces me that eons of evolution didn’t have anything to do with my present state of agitation and general lethargy. In other words, unless you can show me evidence that my limbs don’t feel like they weigh hundreds of pounds because of spring, I’ve created a logical scheme that explains my burden.
Every year, I hope to dodge the depression and irritation of spring. Last year wasn’t so bad. And this year, while difficult, doesn’t match what I went through several years ago when I would up in the nervous hospital with a death wish and nerves so raw I could hardly stand the changing of streetlights when I drove down to check myself in.
We can wonder how much of the hospital incident can be assigned to either chemical imbalance or to spring. Maybe it’s just refusal to cope. But the pattern of my life shows that spring is a trigger for depressions deeper than normal, if depressions can be called normal. They are for me. But spring makes them worse.
Two seemingly conflicting occurrences happen during this time of year: insomnia and endless sleep. Two days ago, I slept maybe three hours of the ten I was in bed. Then, I laid myself down for two- and three-hour naps during the day. That night, I slept like a stone for ten hours. Last night, I got into bed at 11:30 and forced myself out at noon.
Even as I sit here, I’m waiting for the diuretic effect of my noon-day tea to wear off so I can go back to bed.
Another indicator of the season is reading. Last week, between school, napping, sleeping, and an occasional home-bound responsibility, I read three books. Maybe it’s a factor of isolation, of closing myself off from the rest of the world. It’s either sleep or a book. I’m not an unfriendly guy, but, boy, I really don’t want to talk to anyone.
So, this is how this afternoon will go: I will lie down in the back room with a copy of Vonnegut’s Timequake. I admit that it’s not his greatest work, but he says as much in the opening pages of the book. Still, it’s Vonnegut and its readable. I will make it through about ten pages and turn off the light. The dimness of the day will register with me and I will fall into dream-filled sleep. Two hours later, I will wake, berate myself for wasting another day, and then go downstairs to grade the papers I should be grading as I’m writing this.
Fortunately, the day only gets better. Evening will have set in by the time I’m up and around. I will find it in me to write a poem. When it gets dark, I will walk the dogs, reveling the whole time in the darkness. My only gripe will be that the city has too many streetlights. But the alleys give respite.
I kind of like sneaking around in the dark. It feels good after a spring day, even a shitty one, to lurk behind people’s houses and in the bushes. Maybe that’s really where I belong.