November Theme: Grateful for Fierceness by Dia Calhoun

Gratitude? In November? I know that is our topic this month, but not for me this thankfulness at the dying of the year. Yes, yes, I know, the harvest is supposedly in, and we are grateful the larder is packed for winter. Really? True in the past, but practically irrelevant today. Thanksgiving comes at the wrong time of year, and to me it is nothing but a high calorie pep rally to make us feel better about the coming winter.

All November leaf scuffing means is that the Winter King is trying to kill me. He grows stronger every darkening day—until he reaches his full power on the Winter Solstice.  I am a creature of the light—made even more so by my particular brain chemistry. I have Bipolar Illness Type II, a milder form of the full-force version Bipolar I.  People with this illness have an exquisitely delicate connection to the light. In Touched With Fire: Bipolar Illness and the Artistic Temperament, Kay Redfield Jamison documents the relationship between creativity and light in those with this illness (a high proportion of artists, writers, and musicians have bipolar illness). Summer is the divine season, when energy and creativity and production run high. Fall (and to a lesser extent for some, spring) is the hellish season, when despair and sadness darkness seems everlasting.  More suicides happen at this time. (The equinoxes are worse than winter time, because the ratio of darkness to light changes more rapidly than in summer and winter.)

I know this is true for me. In summer I am alive, engaged, creative, happy. Then fall hits and brings a creeping dread: enduring the dark months ahead.

So back to gratitude. As I struggled all month with what I would write in this blog, I did find something I am grateful for: fierceness.  I am grateful that I am fierce, that I am stubborn, that I am a fighter. It means I will not be defeated by the Winter King.

Dylan Thomas wrote this poem about the darkness of death, but to me it has always been about the darkness of fall and winter.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 I am grateful for the turning of the year—only because it means light is creeping back into the world, the Summer King is born a weak mewling babe on the Winter Solstice. I can hold on to that and wait for spring.

This year I am using a dawn simulator, a device that lets me set sunrise at 6:00 am instead of the usual 7:30-8:00 am time here in the Pacific Northwest. At 6:00 the light begins to rise gradually over the course of an hour. This is supposed to trick my body into thinking it is May. Let us hope it works.Because for me, spring is the time of true thanksgiving, for the world is reborn and I am reborn with it.


  1. Beautifully written and so honest, Dia. I hope your dawn simulator works magic...

  2. I love your post, and that poem! It's an interesting perspective shift cause fall is my most productive time of the year. January and February are my dead months, Those That Must Be Endured. But then, here in gorgeous NC those are the only months of the year I can't get outside and soak up some sun.

    Thanks for writing with fierceness, and hang in there!


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