I don’t have anything as serious as seasonal affective disorder, but I sure am happy these mornings as the sun lights the west bank of the river across from my home.
I don’t make light of seasonal affective disorder. Mayo Clinic describes it as a type of depression related to changes in seasons. Symptoms include sadness, moodiness and lack of energy in the fall as the days grow shorter and through the winter. Treatment with light, medication and therapy can help the severe cases.
I don’t get depressed as the days shorten. At least I don’t think I do. I just prefer that the world be light, not dark. Perhaps there’s some sort of metaphor in that. I know a fair number of people on social media platforms talked a lot about the world becoming brighter Wednesday when the country shifted leadership from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Others were less happy, but I did read a fair number of posts about lightness and brightness resulting from the peaceful transition of power that is one of the things this country does well.
I tend not to think in metaphors, though. I’m a simple farm kid. When I feel upbeat and energetic as the days begin to lengthen after the winter solstice, I think it’s simply that I like the sunlight. It’s still dark when I get up in the morning, sure, but by 7 a.m. or a little after I can see the reflection of the coming sun on the chalk-like river bluffs across the way. When the sun does rise above the land, the bluffs shine like a cliff of sugar and their mirror image on the river’s calm surface is wonderful to see. If I were a poet, I might say something about the scene making my heart leap up. Simple old man that I am, I just say it makes me happy.
I recall a party years ago when the talk turned to winter and the blues. After several people had shared stories of hating the long hours of darkness, an optometrist friend scoffed and said, “You think that’s bad? I leave home in the dark in the morning. I come home in the dark after work. While I’m at work, I sit in a dark room and ask over and over, ‘One or two? Three or five?’’’
We all knew what he meant, of course. Who hasn’t been the person being asked those questions during an eye exam? My relationship with eye doctors, as we called them in the old days, is pretty long-standing. It started about midway through my first grade in school at Reliance. That’s when I got my first pair of eye glasses. I suppose that’s about the time a lot of seriously near-sighted kids got spectacles and started being called “four-eyes’’ on the playground. I imagine that before school my folks never recognized that I couldn’t see distant objects. Miss Bairey in first grade is probably the one who noticed when I couldn’t read the blackboard.
I was a goofy, round-headed kid with slicked-down hair and a cowlick. With glasses, I looked a lot like that kid in “The Christmas Story,’’ the one who wanted a BB gun, you know? And, boy, did I get teased on the playground. People who are at all different in grade school tend to be the butt of jokes. I shouldn’t have taken it personally, but I did.
Here’s a funny thing. I’ve worn contact lenses most of the time since college, and I started playing in a dance band when I was about 40. One night, for whatever reason, I wore my glasses for a dance job. An old, old guy danced up to the stage, pointed at me and said, “Look. He’s wearing cheaters.’’ What was this, the playground?
In my early days of wearing glasses, I saw an advertisement of a kid like me wearing horn-rimmed glasses and a happy smile. The caption read, “Don’t laugh. He can see.’’’
I wish I’d said that to that dance-hall fellow. If I saw him today, I’d say, “Don’t laugh. He can see the sun light the bluffs across the river.’’