Sad Cycle

seasonal, adj. and n.[1]

  1. a.Pertaining to or characteristic of the seasons of the year, or some one of them.

I can hear my mother on the phone discussing weather again. Or more accurately, seasons:

In December she says, it gets too dark too soon…

In June she says, it gets too hot too soon…

The words sound different in her native tongue—accusation—more so than observation.

But most words sound this way in German: terse even though the words themselves can be very long, so many letters strung together they would have problems fitting across a Scrabble board.

These seasons:

more than just the rotation and tilting of the Earth toward and away from the Sun,

more than a time for every matter under heaven.[2]

It’s equinox to solstice and solstice to equinox. A cycle.

Academically, my year is segmented into unequal thirds and using the seasonal semester term names makes marginal sense:

Spring (starts at the beginning of January and ends at the beginning of May)

Summer (starts in the middle of June and ends in the middle of July)

Fall (starts at the beginning of August and ends at the beginning of December)

Creatively, my year is more complicated to name because it tracks more like a metaphorical winter: hard, cold, and filled with hibernation.

I write, revise, and research my own work in-between writing, revising, and researching assignments or lesson plans for my students.


affective, adj.[3]

  1. a. Of or relating to the affections or emotions, esp. as contrasted with the intellect or rational faculty; emotional.

My students, the ones who I’ve spend months getting to know through their words (written and spoken), move on at the end of each semester. Sometimes they transfer to other universities or join the military.

Usually they just continue to their next required class and I’ll see them again in passing: nods as they cross in front of my car on campus, quick updates in grocery store aisles.

There may be:

social media follows,

requests for recommendation letters,

advice sought because they are homesick or are having roommate issues,

and sometimes they register for another one of my classes.

Because I teach scads of student-athletes, I can also catch them representing the university on a myriad of courts & fields: basketball, tennis & baseball, football, soccer, softball.

Most colleagues are ecstatic as the semester ends; especially if they had a tough section. It can be freeing, but this cycle drops me into emotional depths.

I need time to mourn, too.

Maybe this feeling is best described by the German adjective weltschmerzlich.[4] It can’t be exactly translated into English, but centers upon how painful, bitter, or distressing the Earth (world) can be or is sometimes.


disorder, v.[5]

  1. To derange the functions of; to put out of health; to ‘upset’ (a person or animal, or an organ or part of the body, or the mind).

One of the earliest uses of “disorder” as per this definition was in a letter written circa 1733, by George Berkeley to the founder of the Royal Dublin Society:

After my journey, I trust that I shall find my health much better, though at present I am obliged to guard against the east wind, with which we have been annoyed of late, and which never fails to disorder my head.[6]

Berkeley, the namesake of the university in California, not only mentions his health in general, but explains how his “head” too, is affected by weather. The east wind, indicative of the season.

During my sad time, my head pushes the first and eighth line of a Wordsworth poem together:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;[7]

Written as a response to the First Industrial Revolution, I slide into this sonnet, studied in at least two classes as an undergrad, as an attempt to find solace.

A simple reminder this cycle spans: days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries.

And I am not alone.

[1] “seasonal, adj. and n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2018.

[2] Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV), Ecclesiastes 3:1

[3] “affective, adj.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2018.

[4] “weltschmerzlich, adj.” DWDS, Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, December 2018.

[5] “disorder, v.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2018.

[6] Fraser, Alexander Campbell. Life and Letters of George Berkeley, D.D., An Account of his

Philosophy, Clarendon Press, 1871, pp. 217-18.

[7] Whitman, Walt. “The World Is Too Much With Us.” Poems, in Two Volumes, 1807.

Photo used under CC.