However, as the years pass I realise that I am more conscious negatively of the changes in weather and particularly whether we have a grey sky or a blue one. I did wonder if, like my American friend, I was suffering from S.A.D. so I looked it up on the Internet in the interests of accuracy. “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons —SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. It was first formally declared in 1984.” However, a little more key-
So I don’t have SAD and that is sad because I now have to think why I and a number of other people DO feel negative after days of grey. Well, of course I can’t speak for anyone else but why do I feel like that? I wonder, to start off, whether it is actually linked to temperature and is not so much about sunlight deprivation?
I have commented before on these pages that the only the areas with which I am familiar that have high temperatures are East Malaysia, California and the Caribbean. My experience of East Malaysia was that the high temperature was accompanied by afternoon rainclouds and lots of precipitation leading to it being incredibly humid. Not my favourite and not somewhere, for that reason only, in which I would like to live. My experience of southern California says it tends towards very hot in summer and slightly cooler in winter. Lots of blue sky. Nice. In the Caribbean, at least the part I know and it may vary, at Christmas time it seems to average 28 degrees getting hotter and very humid in our summer. Great in our winter time but not so pleasant in the summer. A limited experience of Greece in summer tells me I like dry heat.
Now I dump all these variables in front of you to see if any of this rings bells with you, and nudges you to recognise your preferences. The summary of all this is that I feel good when it is warm, and especially when the sun shines and there is lots of blue sky. Now I think this ‘feel good’ factor is significant because it seems to me that people who live in warm, sunny climates tend generally to have a lighter outlook on life than those who live in the zones of gloom and doom, i.e. those where days are shorter and skies tend towards being more grey
But the more I think about this, the more I believe that these ramblings have missed the point – for me at least. I have recognized something in my life which has grown stronger and stronger as the years pass, and again which I have hinted at before in these ramblings, and that is the shear appreciation of the wonder of the world around us, and especially the place that colour plays in nature and – here it comes – how the sun affects colour.
The sea on a cloudy day reflects the grey of the sky and looks cold and uninviting, despite the fact that it may be the middle of summer, but on a day of sunshine and blue skies, the sea is transformed. Now if that is true of the sea, it is doubly so of nature at large. In the Autumn (the Fall for my American friends) this is most acute. On a grey day, the world around us looks grey, but as soon as the sun comes out there is total and absolute transformation with all shades of reds and browns and yellows coming alive and shouting to be appreciated. Similarly, in the Spring, when the sky is grey, flowers and trees in full blossom look almost uninteresting, but as soon as the sun comes out the vista is dramatically brought alive. Now I react to colour – that is the truth of the SAD confusion; it is as simple as that. I light up on the inside when the world around me is bright with colour. Take that colour away and the world looks drab and my spirits sag.
Now this awareness of rising or sagging spirit has arisen in me as I have got older. Now whether I was too busy coping with school demands as a child, or fighting for a place in the world in my twenties and thirties, I don’t know. Rush, bustle, busyness, all contribute to missing out on this world – again as we have noted before on these pages – and perhaps as I have slowed up in life, it has given me more time to be appreciative of the world around me. S.A.D for me today actually is about reflecting the appearance of the world around me; it is not a physiological depression but a sadness at the loss on a cloudy day, of the technicolor world that is there, but not.
So how does one get over this ‘malaise’? I’m not sure. One could say, stay indoors, and embark on a day’s intense activity so that you forget what it is like outside. A bit escapist that! Or alternatively there is the thought of emigrating to a land where the sun shines more. Yeah, but there’s the family back here and the UK has a lot going for it that other places do not have. For instance, in places I will not name for fear of offending my friends there, one of the highlights of this “green and pleasant land”, as William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ called it, is just that, its greenness that remains with us most of the time, most of the year, instead of the brown barrenness of those places who have wall to wall sunshine but no rain. So yes, there is the paradox: to have this wonderful land of green and colour we not only need the sunshine and blue skies, but we also need the clouds and the rain from time to time (preferably at night!!!). That doesn’t really answer my question but it does make me feel just a little better about it.
And here in these words you find something that would be alien in the world of some of my friends and family abroad – another article about the British weather! If we didn’t have this variety, I would have nothing to say on this subject, but here it is, yet another facet of life, one that perhaps we take for granted, because when we have it most of the time, it becomes ordinary. Where one of my sons lives in the Caribbean, I can imagine sitting there beside the water where even the occasional passing clouds do little to diminish the high temperature, and day after day the sun will shine down on me. I could do that, but then I am certain after a while my mind would be drifting back to this country and the wonder of Spring as the sun brings alive the world, a world of immense variety. Yes, I know there are many varieties of palm trees but when I wander around my garden it cannot be compared, this constantly changing kaleidoscope of colour, best shown when the sun shines – and it does.
Our biggest danger in this nation of ours, I suspect, is that we take it for granted. We get taken up with politics and the antics of world leaders, and we worry about the economy and how it will affect us, but an antidote to all this, I have found, is to go outside on a sunny day and just breath in colour and variety and beauty. And that’s where a period of ‘grey’, day after day, spoils it, so it’s no wonder that it becomes a battle to stop spirits flagging at such times. But hey, I’m not ill, I’m just reacting to a loss of something precious, the vision of colours, reds, blues, yellows, greens, purples and so on, all coming alive when the clouds roll back, the sun shines, and blue expanses appear. It’s taken many decades to get to this level of appreciation so I won’t begrudge the occasional grey day that brings either a light shower or a heavy downpour. It’s an incredible world – but more so when the sun shines! Let’s finish as usual with a few reflective thoughts on some of these things.
Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. John Ruskin
An inexhaustible good nature is one of the most precious gifts of heaven, spreading itself like oil over the troubled sea of thought, and keeping the mind smooth and equable in the roughest weather. Washington Irvin
"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. ... There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter."
—Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. Iris Murdoch
Sunlight is painting. Nathaniel Hawthorne
We make our own vitamin D when sunlight hits our skin cells. Many people living in the northern hemisphere, however, suffer from lower levels of vitamin D during the fall, winter and spring. Paul Stamets (Ah yes, I forgot to mention that!)
Every day is a good day to be alive, whether the sun's shining or not. Marty Robbins (a good reminder!)
People are like stained -