Fall Equinox
Fall equinox, from NASA Earth Observatory

It’s fall in the Midwest, and the big picture only tells a bit of the truth.  Sure, the days are getting shorter, but it’s the details that really drive home what’s to come.  I’ve worn a jacket to work a few times in the last week.  I had to find it fist.

When I go out to my car, it’s covered in dew.  Soon enough, it’ll be covered in frozen condensation and I’ll have to warm it up for a while before driving to work.  And work will start before sunrise and end after sunset.  My new office has great windows, so I’ll be able to tell that day actually happened, but in this part of Michigan, we don’t get that much sun in the winter anyway.

It’s not so much the shorter days associated with our latitude, but our climate.  We attract a uniform grey cloud cover, giving the feeling of being in some sort of Sartrean cell.  This makes snow a welcome relief.  I could sit under one of my mom’s hand-woven afghans watching the snow fall for hours, my eyes losing themselves in the swirl of snow and wind.

The fall that precedes it is beautiful, though brief.  The leaves on the hardwoods begin to change in late summer, often with a yellowing of birch and a slight reddening of the maples. Once these and the others come to full color, and the crisp air fills with the scent of fallen leaves, it’s time for a nice walk followed by some warm apple cider.

Usually, the late fall storms end the show dramatically.  A front will blow through with cold rain and harsh winds, stripping the trees and beginning the long grey of Michigan winter.  People find various ways to cope with this.  It has a non-trivial effect on the moods of my patients (and I’m not immune either).  I was mentioning to an old friend that I needed to take up a winter sport.  His answer to preventing the winter blues was more to the point.

“Pal, you’re the doctor, but there’s only one thing that works: Florida.”

So, perhaps I’ll pack up the extended PalFam for a week in the sun to break up the gloom.  But I’ll still enjoy the short days when my  family cuddles in front of the fireplace during a blizzard, watching the snow fall sideways while the fire crackles.

4 thoughts on “Equinox

  1. If you have a lot of full spectrum lighting, it greatly ameliorates the winter gloom. I currently have a HappiLite, with 10K lumens, which I’ll use on a cloudy or otherwise dreary day to keep my mood stable–and I do have SAD. In our Santa Cruz house, it wasn’t until I had to replace two of the hated (but only lighting there) fluorescent tubes in the kitchen, that I found near-full spectrum, or “daylight” tubes were available, for a couple of dollars more each. They were installed by a much taller friend. We looked at the difference, and I said, “We’re going back for the other two, and new cover panels.” The panels were translucent plastic which had yellowed over the years.

    It made a big difference in how I felt, in a part of the house where precious little sunlight entered. These days, if I’m getting new light fixtures, they’ll be fullspectrum. I have quite a few OTT lights around the house. I confess, most OTT fixtures are plain uuuugly. A few, however, are attractive, and those are the ones I’ll purchase. Besides keeping doldrums at bay, they are very useful for anyone needing true color lighting, which is why you find them at shops selling quilting supplies & classes, fabric stores (Joann.com has some great prices), and other shops specializing in textiles and art supplies.

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