I love cloudy days. The greyer the better, and if those clouds began disbursing their rain or snow, all the more cause for rejoicing. I know there is an actual mental health disorder that makes many people depressed when deprived of sunlight – such as happens from, oh, mid-August through May, around these parts – but I do not have that disorder. It is called SAD, for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and it sends sufferers to antidepressants and specially designed light fixtures meant to duplicate the sun. But for me, too much sun makes me sad.
This could be a result of my raging headaches, which have been visiting me – or threatening to – daily for the past three-and-a-half years. Among the many fascinating things I have learned about head pain since mine settled in one day in October 2006 is that some migraines are made worse by bright light, whether it’s coming from the sky, the television or movie screen, the fluorescent bulbs that glow from the ceiling where I work and shop, or the neon signs in the windows of bars. The word for this sensitivity to light is “photophobia,” which sounds like “fear of light,” which, I’ll tell you, was an easy fear to develop once I learned the consequences of too much brightness. To say the sun dazzles me is an understatement.
I know this is weird. I try to go along with the crowd when people greet each other with, “It sure is good to see the sun!” “You bet!” I answer with as much cheer as I can muster, while rooting in my purse for my sunglasses. On days when the sun bounces off the unbearable whiteness of snow that refuses to melt, I’d wear them indoors if I could do so without feeling like an idiot.
What about those nifty glasses that change color on their own? Some of my nearest and dearest have suggested them, but I remember the ones my parents sported back in the 80s. Of course this was the era of Gigantic Glasses (a fashion even I fell for, helpfully documented by my daughter for all the world to see on her Facebook page), so their semi-permanent grey tint was all the more obvious.
For me, an ordinary sunny day feels like those awful moments after the eye doctor has dilated your eyes and blithely sent you on your way to drive home into the noonday sun. The last time that happened, I took the doctor up on her offer of those incredibly dorky plastic shades that fit over your glasses. I felt like a blind mole rat, trying to make my way home down the Arterial, leaning forward and squinting pathetically, gas pedal pressed to the floor to get it over with quickly.
I know I’m not the only one who prefers the gentle dim to the raucous bright. I have a friend who wrote to me just today to report in her subject line, “Day is clouding up (I love it).” Oh, me too. When we first met and one of us noted that the light was growing gentle with the encroachment of thunderheads across the sky, and what a relief that was, we knew we had found a very special kind of soul mate.
Just look at all the wonderful words for different kinds of clouds and cloudy skies there are! Fair weather clouds are “cumulus,” while thick grey rain clouds are “nimbostratus,” and long, airy cirrus clouds are “mare’s tales.” Rows and rows of cirrocumulus clouds make up a “mackerel sky,” and the wisps trailing from a rain cloud that never reach the earth are “virga.” Forget about seeing puppies and ducks in the sky, the clouds themselves are enough for me. Can’t you just picture a “buttermilk sky”?
There should be some snappy acronym for this cloud-loving disorder. What about MAD? “Make Aurora Die”? (Aurora being the Goddess of the Dawn.) Or GLAD? “Ghastly Light Array Dislike”? Or maybe FADE? “Fall Abolishes Daylight Eventually”? CLOUDY? “Choose Lowlit OUtdoor DisplaYs”? A friend suggests BLEAH – “Bright Light: Eyes Ache & Hurt” and SAP – “Sun Accelerates Pain.” W.H. Auden famously wrote, “Stop all the clocks” when his beloved friend died; I’d like to pen an anti-sunlight poem beginning, “Douse all the lights!”
Of course I don’t hate the sun. I like flowers and trees and all the happy living things that depend upon photosynthesis just as much as the next person. I even understand that a little sunlight every day can up our own production of vitamin D, somehow or other. I appreciate it when the gentle spring clouds do not turn into giant thunderheads that rain all over my picnic. (Here’s another word: the anvil-shaped top of a thunderhead is an “incus.” Is that cool, or what?)
But I’m warning you. If you come up to me and start moaning about the fact that you haven’t seen the sun in a week, my smile of commiseration is going to be a forced one. As for me and my kind, I like a nice cloud cover. After all, the sun once ruined half of my winter wardrobe when it was stored in a room with a poor excuse for blinds in the window. Long, streaky fade marks ran the length of my best coats and dresses. And the sun, too, is to blame for all those so-called age spots on baby-boomers’ hands and faces. Yes, that’s right, you knew I would get around to my favorite soap box topic, didn’t you? No cloud ever caused skin cancer! I rest my case!
So if it’s sunny, you know where to find me – under a shady tree, hoping for a buttermilk sky.