November 29, 2009
Most people to whom I relate my fondness for gloom think me mighty strange - I mean, doesn't everyone prefer sunny, warm days over 40 degree late fall gloom? Not everyone! Perhaps I'm the only exception.
This penchant for overcast isn't new - as a kid I loved cloudy, rainy days. I wonder sometimes if it had something to do with my allergies. I've had seasonal allergies since I was four, and they did seem to be alleviated somewhat by rain. Being a sedentary kid as well, rainy/gloomy days gave me an excuse to stay inside and watch TV or play with my dollhouse instead of being shooed outside by my mom ("It's much too nice to be inside today! Why don't you go over to Jodie's house?").
In fact, there's an inside joke in my family about my fondness for these days - I believe it was around 1975, and we were at my Grammie's for dinner. It was this time of year, I believe - maybe even Thanksgiving Day - and the TV was on (chances are it was football). An ad came on for Exxon, and I remember thinking in my 7 year-old head that the general look and ambiance of the ad made me feel the same way that gloomy days do. So to this day, whenever my sis Jen calls me, she'll ask me if it's an Exxon day where I am (and now my nieces call them "Exxon Days" too!). Yes, we're weird. :D
Flash forward to about two years ago. I was reading a great book called, "Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. In it, she chronicles her life encyclopedia-style; it's a fantastic book. One of the entries was entitled "Wabi-Sabi".
SHAZAM!!! This word explained EXACTLY how gloomy days make me feel!!! Ms. Rosenthal had seen the word in an issue of Utne Reader, and this is how they explained it:
"Wabi-Sabi: As a single idea, wabi-sabi fuses two moods seamlessly: a sigh of slightly bittersweet contentment, awareness of the transience of earthly things; and a resigned pleasure in simple things that bear the marks of that transience." Bingo.
This is also why I love Dada art so much. If you check out old or new Dadaist works, you'll find that many of them are on a stark white background. Letters and numbers are often used, and many times the fonts that are utilized are very stark and Helvetica-esque. If asked, I would venture to say that, while one might really love the piece, it wouldn't evoke for them happy days on the beach (unless the beach in question were in Norway in January). I've always appreciated art that has that wonderful tinge of wabi-sabi to it - and not just Dada. Even some Norman Rockwell paintings have it (I'm thinking mainly of his work entitled, "Homecoming", which shows a soldier arriving back home after WWII. I love that you can't see his face, but if you could, I'd imagine it to be the epitome of what wabi-sabi looks like).
I say, let's embrace the feeling. Maybe, in our never-ending quests to be 'happy' (especially this time of year, when many of us attempt to craft picture-perfect holidays that would never exist except in Martha Stewart's stylist's head) we've forgotten that we don't have to be. All we have to do is just 'be'. And if we can find comfort in the gloomiest of days, then perhaps we can be content with other aspects of our lives too.