Friday, March 14, 2008

Feelings of Melancholy (Rogue River Journal)

My bedtime reading over the past month has been John Daniel's Rogue River Journal. "An extraordinary book" says Mary Oliver on the cover. I wholeheartedly agree.

One of the passages in the book has helped me understand a feeling I've had more and more often in recent times -- a feeling that I didn't have a "word" to clearly describe the experience. Here's what John Daniel wrote:

"I wouldn't be surprised if all night writers were melancholics, but not all melancholics are night writers. Thoreau, that quintessential morning person, wrote of melancholy as an indispensable condition: 'There is a certain fertile sadness which I would not avoid, but rather earnestly seek. It is positively joyful to me. It saves my life from being trivial. My life flows with a deeper current, no longer as a shallow and brawling stream ...' I don't have to seek my own sadness, earnestly or otherwise -- it finds me regularly enough, and I bet the same was true of Henry David It goes, it comes, and it is indeed fertile. Depression is barren, denying as it does all feelings other than hopelessness. Joy is unitary, a single intense pitch with small modulations, and unsustainable in any case. Melancholy is a mix of feelings, a melange shaded strongly with sadness but containing happiness too, even glints of joy. It accepts and reflects the wholeness of living even as it laments one's errors and limitations."

Thank you, John, for the gifts your writing has given me and so many others in the world.
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1 comment:

lindawte said...

What a beautiful passage. Thirty years ago I began my habit of sneaking out before dawn to walk in solitude. In the frozen blackness of the Nebraska countryside, my teenage sadness and longing was tempered with dots of joy, just as the inky sky was dotted with clear, cold stars. Yes, I think melancholy can feed the soul.