In Vermont, where I am now, November is generally the most sunless of the months of the year. Depressions happen when they wouldn’t usually. The more usual depressions deepen. And, despite the fact that 2010 has so far held a remarkable number of sunnier days, the grayness of the day has been getting to me. It hasn’t been helped by the fact that I have absolutely no idea what to write about. Everything was made worse by my efforts to renew my domain name so that I could continue the mighty task of thinking of something to say and actually doing it, only to be put through “bloody hell” for my unremembered password and customer number. And, of course, none of it has been assisted by our lame duck Congress, our struggling president, our sad, sad world.
I remember years ago watching Northern Exposure, a 1990s comedy about people living in rural Alaska, one of whom was deeply affected by sunless weather and was provided by one of the town’s do-gooders with a necklace of lit-up light bulbs. The excessive light soon turned him higher than a kite. Only a timely intervention saved him from utter mania.
It seems to me that gray weather must affect artists. It was the reason more than one French painter moved to the sunlit wine country of his nation. (Though Van Gogh still shot himself!) I don’t know of any studies, but I’d wager that writers who live in England are moodier than those who reside in Rio. Somehow, though, gray weather should drive us deeper into ourselves. That’s what I always imagine, or at least hope, will happen. You know, while I sit in front of the fire, notebook in hand, hot cocoa in the other….
But then I remember a recent dark day in California where the day was enhanced by the beauty of the dampness, the shine that trees take on when dew and fog have wrapped themselves around them. My friend, Amy, had planned to take me to the beach. I thought of it as an appropriate farewell to that rough, wild coast but there was too much gray—too much rain to enjoy it and too much fog to see it. So first we went to Freedom, a remote place on the road, to a bakery that would have been a perfect place in New England as well as in northern California. A golden place with bakers whose cheeks were turned rosy from the heat of over-sized ovens; with every manner of shape and size of bread bulging with raisins, figs and nuts; and the warm over-powering scent of bread rent through with damp jackets and caps—it was a remarkable place that was more remarkable for its setting in a gray day.
Just as perfect was our next stop—Armstrong Woods. Redwoods are always beautiful, but I think they were more than that on that particular day. The weather had insinuated itself into their ancient trunks, shined them, deepened their colors, and made the whorls of old trees into the finest sculpture. The paths were pure velvet, softer to walk on than any green lawn on a sunny day. The voices of people turned to distant music.
I’ve talked myself into it. Gray can be a wonderful color for the weather to be.