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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Do the Darkening Days Lead to Depression?

Time did its annual hopscotch this past weekend, moving back an hour where it will pause before jumping ahead again four months later.

When I read an article yesterday asking whether anyone actually likes daylight saving time, I felt sheepish, like the only kid in a room raising her hand after the teacher asks a snarky question.

To me, DST is a win-win. That extra hour in November —doesn’t it feel like a gift that we exchange in March for an even better one, more daylight? Yet for many of us, the increasing November darkness can feel morose, limiting our activities and mobility, tamping down our spirits. And the time-change can wreak havoc on parents with young children.

In Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA - Nov. 1, 2023

Last week, Mike and I did a bit of road-tripping to the coastal low country, a land of Spanish moss and cypress swamps an ecological world away from our high-country North Carolina mountains. When we left, Mike’s summer dahlias and the potted annuals on our front deck were still brilliant.

But when we returned? A hard freeze overnight had turned our flowers to black mush. Trees that burned with vibrant color just last week now stand nearly naked, shivering under the late autumn sky.

I love summer when our hills are layered with all manner of glory and green. Our town lies in a valley between great stands of the Pisgah Forest. We marvel at the vernal silence and seclusion, with only a coyote’s cry breaking the silence or the neighborhood rooster punctuating the peace of our mornings.

Last night on our way down into town, we were surprised once again to see pinpricks of light piercing the darkened hills. As the road dropped away beneath us, houses previously hidden emerged from the dusk like the beacons of ships passing at sea.

“Amazing how the view changes in the fall,” I commented to Mike as we drove. “I forget there are homes on that ridge or that we have neighbors that close.”

It’s comforting, in a way, to know we’re not alone. We miss the lush foliage, but now that it’s fallen away, we can see farther than we have before. That which was invisible to eyes besotted with nature’s beauty now stands clear. One strong wind alters the landscape overnight.

A few shriveled apples clinging to our neighbor's tree.
Sometimes it takes a storm to raise the curtain between the world we see and the one waiting to be seen.

Have you ever arrived late at a movie theatre when the lights have already dimmed? You stand at the end of the aisle clutching your popcorn wondering how you’ll find a place to sit in the darkness.

Then your pupils dilate to let in more light, and the silhouettes of those already seated emerge from the gloom. Relieved, you hurry to an empty seat. Now you can watch the show.

Odd, isn’t it, that darkness brings out the light. Strange, in a way, that relinquishing that which we love widens our vision to a view of the world reborn. Glorious, don’t you think, that there is more, always more, to this world than we know.

I’m thinking of you today, friend — the one with the child riding life full throttle and hell-bent when you ache to see him heaven-bound instead.

And you, sister, the one who’s tired of being sick. And just plain tired.

And I’m thinking of you, brother, the weary pastor feeding your flock with everything you’ve got till there’s scarcely one holy crumb left and you go empty, like a momma feeding her family while pretending she’s not hungry herself.

Wait a while until your eyes adjust to the dimness.

Grieve, there now, because those tears are washing the view purely clean.

Rest, won’t you, In knowing you are not alone. The Source of light and the Maker of stars is also the Giver of strength.

Hush now, child, and take His hand. Mine, too. I’m sitting beside you while we pray.

We’ll wait for the light we cannot see.*

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it." —John 1:5

- Maggie Wallem Rowe

* That last line is borrowed from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Set during WWII in Nazi-occupied France, the story has just been released on Netflix as a four-part series. Mike and I have watched the first two episodes, and they’re not only beautifully done but highly relevant to our time.

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