Thursday, September 24, 2009

Square 62: Light box

Square 062

I have decided to buy a light box, but with ambivalence. I hate how medical science calls this condition Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is perfectly natural (not dysfunctional) for people's energy to go through cycles over the course of a year. Many animals in these latitudes hibernate. A few generations ago our own ancestors conserved essential resources by eating differently and sleeping through long nights in a warm cave. Many of the behaviours psychiatry calls mental illness are merely variations, our brains experimenting in order to adapt. Some, like the depression that afflicts some individuals in winter, are reasonable responses to social pressure that runs contrary to nature.

The primary yarn in this square is something from Dye-Version I bought at Kitchener-Waterloo Knitters' Fair earlier this month. These fiery colours evoke an Ontario landscape in autumn. This is one of the most beautiful times of year, but also a perilous one, when my moods and energy respond to the loss of daylight. Some years in October and November I have found my inner landscape eerily out of sync, disconsolate, bogged down, unable to celebrate the vividness around me.

Why am I buying a light box? Why do I submit to manipulating my own environment in an attempt to conform to societal standards I disapprove of? Why do I take a pill to treat a sickness that isn't sick?

The only answer I have is that when I am out of pace with the world, I suffer. No matter how misguided the system is, I have to live in it. And as long as I'm depressed, I won't have any power to change the system. We have to make some sacrifices, waver on our principles occasionally.

So I plan to purchase this thing. Maybe it's like sending my brain for a little vacation on a tropical beach, every morning of the winter. That, too, is something my caveman ancestors could not have done, but I have to admit I like the idea.

The four other other coloured yarns represent states of mind that pertain to this problem: grey for depression, gold for light, violet for creativity, and pale peach for peace.


  1. Wow, Van, believe it or not, I had to search the internet to find out what a lightbox is in the context of SAD, and not photography.

    It might prove good meditation/recharging time for you, too.

    I absolutely agree that we are thrust into unnatural rhythms by society, but this is what we are living in, and we need to be good to ourselves to make it work.

    Light to you, friend, in every sense possible.

  2. Thanks, Pippa. I'm not surprised you didn't know about lightboxes. The incidence of SAD is much higher in the extreme latitudes, particularly Canada and Scandinavia. I have several friends here who rely on lightboxes, and several more (like myself) who would do better by using them.

    I have a friend who lived for a while in the Arctic, who said everyone's energy level changes up there and the pace of life simply slows down in winter. Nobody worries about whether something gets done tomorrow or the next day, but it will get done in the right time. I think we could all stand to relax a little, like that.