Trashing S.A.D.



I find November to be a transitional month—not quite past autumn and not yet winter. Skies are often filled with heavy dark-gray clouds that suddenly open into glorious sunlight, illuminating yellow leaves. The business of outdoor activities is ending, and the bustle of holiday celebrations is waiting to begin. This is the month when nature goes dormant. And we become wrapped in restfulness, drawing-down at home in heavy sweaters, flannel pants, and warm slippers. With hands encircling steaming cups we slow our pace and reflect.

This is when the true purpose of dormancy develops in our lives—when roots expand and the overt activities of life decrease. We become more grounded.

By definition, dormancy is a state of rest. Like hibernation, it is a time of minimal activity. Many organisms require this cycle of rest. Without it the future holds reduced productivity and impaired vitality—plants don’t flower, animals become obese, and people distraught.

For those of us who manage living with Seasonal Affective Disorder, dormancy is not always beneficial—too much stillness and my mood goes dark. I find it best both physically and mentally to remain as active as possible before the confining nature of winter sets in.

It had been cloudy and rainy for days. The afternoon cloud-breaks of sunlight were a welcomed sight. I saw from my upstairs windows that it was a breezy day. Remnant leaves were being stripped from dormant branches. Flocks of small birds were flying en masse with the wind, and their sudden turns reminded me of schools of fish.

I felt gloomy and angry, and hoped that going for a walk would improve my mood. I tied on boots, secured the hand-knitted ruana—a large shawl-like poncho—with a brooch, and headed out the door with the dog, she in a sweater as well.

There are few things happier than a dog on a windy day. My Lilly was no exception. Her tail wagged as she pranced, head up, sniffing the air. She wanted to stop at every sign and pole to mark her passing—but I was on a march and she needed to keep pace. My mission was to outmaneuver the dark thoughts that swirled.

Leaves and litter blew about, trees and shrubs swayed. As we passed an overgrown woodlot, a naked shrub at the edge had gathered debris…including a plastic bag snagged low in the branches. Caught and twisted, the plastic crackled and jerked with each windy gust. Entangled by the previous storms, it could not break away.

I really hate litter…it makes a place look worse than it is. With deliberate steps, maneuvering over tall grass and hidden limbs, I approached the shrub and snatched the plastic bag free. Continuing the walk, the bag was used to hold the litter collected as it blew into my way. The dog took advantage—each time I stopped and stooped, she piddled her message of passing.

It had been about an hour by the time Lilly and I returned home. Going through the back gate, I threw the bag of litter in the garbage can. My mood had improved…those bits and pieces of dark thoughts had also been gathered and trashed.

Copyright 2015 Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB
Image: “Dormancy” by braindance at


About Author

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB is a contemplative lay hermit, author of Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time, 2nd Edition, and A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. Margaret has a master’s degree in communications, a Certified Greenhouse Grower, Advanced Master Gardener, liturgical garden consultant, and workshop/retreat leader. A freelance writer with a Benedictine spirituality, she blogs at Patheos.


  1. Dear M. Rose R., This is really a piece about both hope and messiah complexes. You live hope – hope that what you do makes a difference, and it does; each bit or trash you remove restores the God-given beauty to creation. And the hope is no more trash, ever, will be there. Re: Messiah Complexes: some want to save the entire world and all in it, and, often, seeing they cannot do that, they do not even start with one person saved. But you are living “starfish theology” each time you pick up just one piece of trash. Starfish Theology is this: Guy tells man on beach he can make no difference trying to same the thousands of starfish that have washed up on the beach. The man then picks up one more, tosses it back into the waves, and says “It made a difference to that one.” M. Rose R., thank you for the hope. And thank you for the beauty of your words. Guy McClung, San Antonio, Texas

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