The first wet morning of the new school year. The beautiful landscape from the classroom window had become bleak and grey. The change in the colour of the leaves had become more evident.
Looking out at the looming clouds, the words of California dreamin’ came to mind. The browning of the leaves and the dark skies prompting imagination of that mythical land where winter and sadness have no place. Perhaps to travel there would shatter the illusion; perhaps, like heaven, California is the hope of something more, something greater.
Standing one day at a supermarket checkout in the Dublin suburb of Ballybrack, two young ladies bag-packing for charity packed my shopping it into my odd collection of carrier bags. They stood singing, “All the leaves are brown, and the skies are grey . . ”
I was disappointed when my bags were all packed. I always liked that song. The Mamas and the Papas singing ‘California Dreamin’ used to sum up how I felt about the autumn. Their song said they wished they were away from the cold north east of the United States and instead were in California. I wouldn’t have minded where I was when the leaves were brown and the skies were grey, just so long as it was warm and sunny and the days lasted forever.
I put my change into the girls’ collection bucket gathered up my bags and went on my way. ‘California dreamin’ or not, it was autumn in Ballybrack and there was nothing I could do about it. I had long ago given up my dream of becoming rich and spending six months of the year in Australia and the other six months in the south of France.
I have never liked the autumn; since I was a child I’ve always dreaded the shortening of the days. I remember talking to someone in a hospital, about it.
“SAD”, she said.
“Yes,, I said, “it is.”
“No,” she said. “SAD – seasonal affective disorder, it’s caused by a lack of light.”
I could have told her that. I don’t know if the clinical name for feeling miserable in the autumn has changed since then. Whatever its name, feeling like the words of California Dreamin’ remains the same.
I walked across the car park at Tesco with my shopping, whistling California Dreamin’ (out of tune) and looking at the colours of the leaves on the trees. It wouldn’t be bad to be in California.