Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Sadness and the Gladness

There is a feeling held in the atmosphere of this time of year that I see as the reverse of, though closely kindred to, the green, burgeoning quality of early spring. A soft sadness that summer is coming to a close, and a growing gladness that autumn, with gradually longer nights and crisp mornings, is on her way. I can’t help being wistful, holding this sadness–gladness close.

The sadness is surprising, considering how badly summer treats me. The heat drains me of energy, and the warm, short nights often lead to poor quality sleep, so as the season progresses I feel worse and worse. (Doing anything in January and February is a struggle.) And then I begin to long for autumn, for invigorating breezes, and days cool enough for cardigans. For boots and scarves and coats. I do love autumn. I love the decent into the darker half of the year. But … there is still something about the passing of summer that fills me with sorrow and regret.

I think it is because summer is traditionally the time when things are supposed to happen. When you are supposed to have a more substantial bodily immersion in the world. It is the time for holidays at the beach, swimming and sunbathing, picnics and walks—essentially, for pleasure, for being in the world. 

I always have plans for summer: to spend much more time outside, to make the most of the sunshine, to work more on art … And of course those things rarely happen. Because of my lack of energy, yes, but also because I find the weather is often too hot to be outside. Or it is raining. And so summer after summer has passed me by, seemingly wasted.


This summer has been a particularly hot one, with temperatures well above average, and breaking records (and it scares me that this is becoming the norm). Though thankfully, each heatwave has been followed by a few cooler days of rain and mist, so this year, we’ve been lucky. Things have remained green, instead of drying to tinders, and the bushfire threat has not been substantial in my part of the state—a great relief.

Yet despite the heat, the discomfort, the lethargy, I still feel what I feel at this time of year. I mourn summer’s passing, lament the fall from the height of the solstice, away from the green lushness, back to our dark origins, dry leaves underfoot. 

Another summer gone.

This feeling of sadness mingled with gladness, a bittersweet melancholy, is a beguiling one that I wouldn’t be without. But it feels strangely unfinished, open and frayed at the ends, and I’d like to be able to weave it into something useful, some piece of creative work that enables me to finally catch hold of it, to finally be embodied at this cusp of the seasons.

Yet as I wrote in my notebook not so long ago, as I was accumulating ideas for a story: If it is the journey, not the destination, then it is the longing, not the attainment. 

Much like the Welsh concept of hiraeth, some things are unattainable, forever just out of reach. The beauty is in the feeling of longing itself, the openness and wildness of something that cannot be contained or defined, and remains a mystery, even when we are granted precious glimpses of it. 

I think, perhaps, that it is in such feelings that poetry is born.

6 comments:

  1. This is a lovely meditation...I feel this "sadness-gladness" often, and you have given me a new way to think about it. With beauty comes a feeling of loss for its passing. Thank you.

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  2. End of Summer, tipping into Autumn, elicits a similar response from me... I mourn the languid Summer days, but can't wait for the first chill in the air! Sweater weather is better weather as they say in these parts :)
    A lovely, lovely post, Therese x

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  3. I can relate to this so much! Summer over here is so short and it´s so full of expectations. You only have such a short time to do so many things you can only do in the summer. And sometimes when you´re not feeling well and just so tired and sick most of the time and you are unable to go swimming, tend to your garden or read a book under a tree. And the summer is over so quickly and when you realize you have to wait almost 10 months till you can do these things again, it´s devastating!
    (I´ve been thinking about the seasons a lot lately, and their affect on my mental health especially. This winter has been really hard, and I should be glad it´ll be spring soon and the sun will shine again. But instead I´m dreading it, and all of it´s demands.)

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    Replies
    1. In contrast, the Australian summer tends to be long (and our winters quite short), but the time still seems to whoosh past. It's never easy when you are unwell, when there are so many things you want to do, but can't. I've been trying to celebrate small achievements—writing a blog post, or a poem. 'Doing' is an important part of life, but so is just being.

      I find that my inner seasons don't always match the outer ones, so it's a matter of trying to find some kind of balance between them. Not always easy.

      That said, I hope that spring comes early for you, and you can begin to thaw out after winter—but even more than that, I hope you feel well enough to make the most of it. Without expectations, pressure or demands. Just to dwell in the light and to feel well. x

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