I am not happy today. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t rest well last night; perhaps the magic balm of sleep did not take place. Or am I getting sick? Is it a tick- or air-borne illness? Maybe it is just creeping old age expressing itself. Or is it psychological? Could it be the unavoidable holiday dread? “Ennui” is such a beautiful word; so is “melancholy.” “Depression” is not.
But everyone gets the Blues sometimes.
Still, the dog needs her walk, and I suppose I do, too. It almost always does me good to “get out.” The weather this late December day is better than we have a right to hope for — mild and bright, with a light breeze.
But I will not be satisfied. My gloves won’t stay on right, and I have trouble with my jacket zipper. The sun is pale, for all its brightness. In the woods, the trees just stand there, mute and mostly bare, charmless. The briars intrude on the trail with more than their usual malevolence; they are out to get me. The birds do not cooperate. They are few and far between.
Later in the afternoon, as the tide recedes, we head to the beach. On this short-lighted day the golden sun is beginning to set, and the ducks and gulls rest on the placid water. The sky is turning pink, then orange, then brick red. The shoreline is burnished, and a pale crescent moon shines in the diminishing light. But none of this does its work for me.
It makes me realize that Nature in itself cannot heal every human heart on demand. Sometimes beauty is not enough. Or, rather, beauty comes only to a receptive mind. It can be therapeutic, but therapy has its requirements. The world, the universe, exist for their own sake, not to satisfy my well-being.
This crescent moon shines down on my suffering with shimmering indifference: that is the essence of its kindness — it is defiantly neutral. It reminds me that there is a bit of a transactional quality to being in this world: I have to bring myself to it. If I would care for this bay and its ducks and gulls, it does not mean that they care about me. But they will reflect my gladness if I can only show it to them.
The early winter beach is devoid of people, and the town is quiet. Usually this brings me solace. It is good to be alone with my thoughts and feelings — just not today.
Then I encounter an old friend, and we walk together for a bit, talking of time gone by and issues of the day. Up ahead I come upon my neighbor, another friend, who photographs the sunset virtually every day. “Glorious!” he says. “Best one yet.” He says that every evening.
Then, leaving the beach, I hear my name called out and see two friends on the street, a young couple pushing a baby carriage. Cradled within is a perfect little girl, just 13 days old. The freshness of this new life and the bliss that emanates from the parents triggers something in me. What the natural world could not accomplish, all these people did instead. Friendship itself is beautiful, and nurturant.
We are not so much like the solitary hawk, although we sometimes hunt alone, but more like the sparrows, happy in our flocks. Something to remember, in this season of peace and goodwill to all.