With all due respect, Mr. Eliot, April is not the cruelest month. It is January. At least in Seattle. Dark and bleak and cold and gray, is this dreadful, interminable wet sponge of time that spans 31 disheartening days. It saps the spirit. It tests the soul.
This is the month when, under endless sullen skies, we can't help but ponder what sweet madness drove us to this drizzly outpost on the 47th parallel, where everything, even a rolling stone, gathers moss.Most of us know the standard litany, the oft-repeated miseries that forge January's negative narrative: Post-holiday blues and letdowns abound, depression levels rise, hopes sink, relationships on the rocks finally crumble, New Year's resolutions go bust, and all the while a kind of undefinable sadness creeps into our chilly bones.
But there's another side, a good side, to all of this -- for in the cold heart of winter, as New York Times columnist and lifelong Northwesterner Tim Egan wrote earlier this month, "something stirs in the creative soul."
Egan goes on:
At least, that's my theory. As a lifelong resident of a latitude well to the north of Maine, I've come to the conclusion that creativity needs a season of despair. Where would William Butler Yeats be if he nested in Tuscany? Could Charles Dickens ever have written a word from South Beach? And the sun of Hollywood did much to bleach the talents out of that troubled native of Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Egan, the author of one of the best primers every written about the Northwest, The Good Rain, spoke with a group of accomplished Seattle writers "about dark-season gloom and creative fertility."
Here's what novelist Randy Sue Coburn had to say: "As any comedian knows, the wheels of invention are often turned by melancholy. And Seattle's winter weather is a veritable melancholy machine."
This from Bob Dugoni, a best-selling writer of legal thrillers: "I retreat to my office, turn on my happy light (yes, as a California native, I am not embarrassed to confess that I have one), put my fingers on the keyboard and hope that the muse can find me beneath Seattle's heavy gray cloud covering,"
And from Sean Beaudoin: "I feel an overpowering impulse to write. In fact, I've gotten more done in the few years since I moved to Seattle than I did over the entire decade before ...By rights I should be crippled by clinical depression, bending toward the light like a dying tomato plant, wan and pale and in need of a raw steak smoothie. Instead, words pour out, sentence by sentence."
Still, amid these inspirational anecdotes of soaring productivity and the stoking of creative fires, today we bid a not-so affectionate farewell to January. Good riddance.