Thursday, November 01, 2007

Fall is the time for poignant reflections

North Texas is not Michigan or Washington State. The days of fall, on average, don’t become perceptibly more overcast as they shorten. Nor does the amount of daylight in each day lose three or four minutes, unlike these northern locations.

In short, our area does not feel like it’s becoming sunlight-deprived as October rushes into November, with December looming on the horizon. So, the area is not a prime location to produce sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder, normally known by its acronym of SAD.

Nonetheless, this is a time of year I get poignant, to use a nice, high-dollar word.


In a word, or two acronyms, it’s the change from CDT to CST.

Our annual time to pay the piper for all those extra evenings of summer sunlight is now upon us, as we prepare to “fall back” to Standard Time.

I’m not awake early enough in the spring to notice my “lost” hour of dawn at the start of Daylight Saving Time, just my “gained” hour of evening.

I think a loss gets noticed more easily than a gain, though. And, being a night owl, not a morning person, I’m more likely to notice an evening loss, too.

To sound a bit John Madden-like, all of a sudden, BOOM, there goes an hour of daylight. And, I’m left feeling, well, poignant, among other things.

I hate using the word “ineffable” about the word “poignant.” Nonetheless, I think a complex emotional state like poignancy has to be experienced, has to be felt, to be fully understood; words alone can’t do it justice.

And, with the change from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time being pushed a week later this year, I will probably have that feeling of poignancy intensified a little bit this year.

Even though I just said that “poignancy” might not be easily definable to a person who has not felt poignant, I’ll nonetheless make an effort at it, and perhaps wax a bit poetic in the process.

To me, it contains wistfulness at the process of change, whether that’s change in seasons and sunlight, or other changes. It also contains a bit of melancholy, a gentle tinge of sadness as I once wrote in a poem, at how life is passing onward. But it also has a warm glow from memories provoked by thinking about life’s ever-changing flow.

So, no, the complex emotion of poignancy isn’t a “bad” emotion, not that “bad” emotions are bad, anyway, when felt at appropriate times and expressed appropriately. It’s a very human emotion, one that distinguishes us from lower life forms as much as our abstract-reasoning human intelligence does.

In other words, poignancy is an emotion about being alive, fully alive. It’s about being aware of life as it surrounds us, of how changes in life impinge upon us, and how we can awarely interact with our larger world. Either other people or changes in the natural world can stir it up in me.

And, with that said, I can think of two reasons why I think the one-week delay in the change back to standard time may increase those feelings.

One is that the daylight will be a little bit shorter with the time change a week later than it has been in the past.

The second is that, with the time change occurring another week into fall, more fall foliage changes will be out there for me to see. A few more leaves will be yellow, orange or maybe brown. A few more will be falling from their branches, pinwheeling and tumbling to the ground. The smell of various types of red oaks, and their decaying leaves, will provide an aromatic fall backdrop, accompanied by the aural filigree of the sound of those leaves, and the occasional acorn or pecan, crunching underfoot.

Fall may not be a season of hope in the way that spring is. But, it can be a time of taking stock, of appreciating and accepting where our journey of life has us at right now, a nature-based equivalent of Marcel Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past.”

And that, in a native pecan nutshell, is what poignancy is about.

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