It’s been raining here for days.
In my corner of the forest, everything is wet. There’s been flooding in Portland. Our yard is a swamp.
I like to think that the trees are finally satiated after all this drought.
When Evan and I were considering moving to Oregon, so many of the relocation guides mentioned the rain. But we’re from the Midwest, not from San Francisco. Several months of temperate rain seemed like a no-brainer after enduring months of snow and below-zero temps.
And it has been. There are no regrets here.
But something that is true is this: just because something is better doesn’t mean that it’s good.
I’m sensitive to the shorter days and to the dreary weather in a way that makes winters very hard for me sometimes. And there’s a small part of me that wants to plan to be away during this time of folding in, this time of candles and inside time and the endless grey.
And I’m not going to say that a bit of escape and sunshine isn’t in order. Sometimes these kinds of accommodations are part of taking care of ourselves.
But something else that is true is this: the good books are not only about sunshine.
I so often find myself twisting away from the discomfort of looking inside. Trying to avoid the feelings that come up, trying to avoid the slow times.
I’ve struggled with my mental health, as several of you, I am sure, have also struggled. I see it now as part of my creative work. And I will also say, when I am feeling on my game, I feel brilliant.
But that brilliance, and our collective brilliance, is only truly visible in contrast. In contrast to the ache of being alive, in contrast to the struggle. Our characters need flaws to be believable.
And we humans need them too.
Without the experience of struggle, of hardship and loss, of regret, we do not live lives that scrape the spectrum of human experience. And we cannot gather fodder for our work.
I do not suggest we wallow in these times, but I do think, when we’re in them, that it helps to remember these two things particularly:
One: Our collective experience helps us to know and understand ourselves.
The feelings that come here help me move towards change. They help me take responsibility for my life and for my feelings. They help me understand what hurts and what can mitigate that pain.
And, when I am feeling more energetic, the things I have learned here help me take positive action that makes these periods shorter, less intense, and less oppressive. When I am only feeling the sun, I sometimes find it difficult to listen to the pleading of my heart and my intuition.
When I am feeling the rain, that voice is loud and clear.
Two: This time will pass. It will not always be grey.
Just as the seasons cycle, these seasons of our heart are mutable. There have been times where I have lost sight of that truth, times where I believed that life was barren and have been consumed by my own apathy and heartsickness.
I can’t escape the winter, literally or figuratively, but I can help myself remember that it ends.
It may not be pretty. It may be piles of snow for weeks, or endless rain and grey skies, or it might be the dirty, salty slick of Chicago in February. Our winters look and feel many ways.
But I do think that it helps to know that this fallowness, this dreariness, and this existential crush plants the seeds of later fruitfulness. This is also the fertile time, where we lay the groundwork for the hydration of spring, where we rest.
Where we learn to appreciate the fleeting beauty of the world when it is bright and green, and stop to inhale deeply the fertile earth and our own feelings of spaciousness.
There isn’t magic here, not the escapist kind, but there is depth and beauty in being able to embrace ourselves both in the dark and in the light.
It is the kind of work and awareness that makes our fiction speak to hearts and minds across space and time, that makes our words true, that allows us to live our art and source our work from our lived experience.
It may not be pretty. It may be a mucky mess. But through all of our experience, we collectively mitigate and learn. Through writing, we sow the seeds of wisdom.
For that, and by extension, for the rain, I am grateful.