The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sear.
Heaped in the hollows of the grove, the autumn leaves lie dead;
They rustle to the eddying gust, and to the rabbit’s tread.
The robin and the wren are flown, and from the shrubs the jay,
And from the wood-top calls the crow through all the gloomy day.
Where are the flowers, the fair young flowers, that lately sprang and stood
In brighter light, and softer airs, a beauteous sisterhood?
Alas! they all are in their graves, the gentle race, of flowers
Are lying in their lowly beds, with the fair and good of ours.
The rain is falling where they lie, but the cold November rain
Calls not from out the gloomy earth the lovely ones again.
~William Cullen Bryant from “The Death of the Flowers”
These dark and sodden days are scarcely recalled while basking in the lightness of June when the sun shines 19 hours a day. There is no way to cope with such overwhelming darkness except by adding in a few minutes more a day over six months, otherwise the shock of leaving behind the light would be too great. The howling wind knocks and batters, the rain beats mercilessly at the window panes, the puddles stand deeper than they appear, the mud sucks off boots, the leaves thoroughly shaken from embarrassed branches.
We have no remnant of summer civility and frivolity left; we must adapt or cry trying, only adding to a pervasive sogginess.
Nevertheless, these melancholy days have their usefulness — there are times of joyful respite from frenetic activity while reading, snuggled deep under quilts, safe and warm. Without such stark contrast, the light and bright time of year would become merely routine, yet just another sunny day.
That never happens here in the north.
We can now celebrate the emerging light with real thanksgiving and acknowledging this darkness makes gratitude more genuine.
We are privileged to live within a paradox: there is, after all, a gladness in our sadness.