The holiday season has never been a good time for me. It is literally the darkest time of the year, with the least amount of daylight. On top of this, our wintry climate means many gray days. All of this conspires to give me the blues, via the condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
I am not a person who routinely experiences depression. It is actually rare, which I realize is a gift. But I am definitely affected by the lack of light these days. This morning I awoke to a steady light snow and gray skies. This was the forecast and I was prepared for a dreary day. But while I was drinking my coffee, the sun came out and has stayed out for the duration of this morning, and it is quite remarkable how much it lifts my spirits.
I recently read The Overstory, Richard Powers’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel* about the interrelationship between trees and humans. He weaves a lot of science into this engrossing tale of the emerging tree-hugger movement of the nineties, and a lot of it relates to photosynthesis, the miraculous way trees convert sunlight to food and feed it to other plants.
Climate change is the defining issue for humanity. It is not looming, it is in full swing and accelerating. But it was fueled by the need for cheap energy and ironically that energy consists of carbon sequestered in plants that eventually became oil and gas. Sunlight. The irony lies in the fact that like trees, we are able, through technology, to harvest that inexhaustible source. It may be our salvation. Or not.
Humans look like a virus in the eco-system. Our population has exploded, doubling globally in my lifetime, and like a virus we are threatened by our own devouring of the resources we need to survive. This may be inevitable, given the incredible denial, paid for by short term gain money interests, of those in power. However, I take some comfort in the reality that the planet itself is resilient. We may not survive but it will thrive.
As I write, my office is bathed in the winter sunlight. It is warm on my hands. The angle of the sun is low so the light washes the walls with reflections and shadows. And for now, I’m not SAD. The Solstice is coming and soon I’ll be tracking the growing length of day. It is my real holiday.
*Please read it!