“Don’t forget your umbrella and beware of the winter blues.” This was the first piece of advice from the people of Oregon, northwest of the US, which they told me before I even arrived.
I laughed from the bottom of my heart and said: “Don’t they know that we pray for rain and welcome it and that we even prepare ourselves for rain by selecting our destinations in the desert and light a fire and prepare coffee as we await the guest that’s coming from afar?”
I arrived to Oregon, the city where it rains for around 11 months. I thought I had found what I was looking for until a few months later when my relationship with winter and rain began to change. The rain which we waited for in Najd became frequent and dominant.
I suddenly got used to the wet weather and the long winter nights. It was a new experience to a man who associated winter with going out from the city and going to the desert to enjoy the change in weather.
The streets of Oregon would suddenly be empty. Dim lights would be seen at porches while those you saw after 7 p.m. are either in search for a hot drink or restlessly looking for the shortest way home.
This is the first time I greeted winter blues where many people opt for satiety, alcohol and long sleeping hours while being absent from work or traveling to where there is sun. In recent years, there have been more studies about the rates of suicide which increase in winter nights. One in every five women gets the winter blues. I am not scaring anyone but this is what doctors recommend: Pay attention to your children and talk to your partners more after 10 p.m. as a lack of appetite, weight gain and unjustified anxiety are all primary symptoms that winter blues is near. Scientists have attributed women’s hatred of winter and their feeling of depression to several reasons “of which the most important is the short daylight time as they cannot perform all their daily duties, and they also suffer from the silence which reigns over the family after 10 p.m.”
Check on your loved ones during all seasons, but check twice on them in winter.Turki Aldakhil
Doctor Hussein Zohdy al-Shafai, a doctor of psychiatry and neurology, said the winter blues first requires direct medical supervision especially as patients who suffer from seasonal depression can be treated with a pill that they take at night. The dose of these pills, mood stabilizers, are regulated at sporadic times depending on their rate in the blood.
Since the winter blues has its presence, I’d say depression after the World Cup affected a majority of male viewers. It was a great summer this year with the tournament being played. We got used to watching matches and following up on the players’ news, and we enjoyed the goals they scored and got surprised by the strong teams’ weakness. Suddenly – and all problems begin after this word – the World Cup ended and joy ended without any warnings although everyone knew when it will end!
There must be a study to explain to us what happens before, during and after the World Cup every four years. There should be an intelligent doctor who monitors people’s mood and recommends that the World Cup be held during the winter season so it shortens its long sad nights.
Back to winter blues. Some of the English phrases which were translated into Arabic seem strange to Arabs. For example, those who translated Shakespeare’s works conveyed warm greetings. This is something which Shakespeare may say and which 6th century Arabian poet Ṭarafah ibn al-Abd would never say. Shakespeare lived in a cold country; hence warmth was of value, while Tarafah lived in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula so he only welcomes the breeze and rain! Therefore, among the characteristics of the residents of the Arabian Peninsula is that they do not suffer from the winter blues. You see them smiling in winter and tolerance can be seen even while driving and you see the driver’s teeth which are otherwise only seen by dentists!
May God have mercy on photographer Saleh Al-Azzaz whom I remember during all seasons as he smiled and said: “I do not know a land that better describes Allah’s words: ‘And you see the earth barren, but when We send down upon it rain, it quivers and swells and grows [something] of every beautiful kind’ more than the vestal Najd after the rain transforms it from a barren desert to a flower garden!”
This was the spirit of Saleh, the human, as he saw beauty in everything, and this was his eye as a photographer as water is the beginning of everything in Najd. Water is what makes valleys flow and what turns the yellow desert red and dresses it in green that’s comfortable to the eye. People thus go on trips in all directions and this impacts them as they rejoice and you see them waiting for their guests or standing at the roadway to direct their friends to an area which no one had visited before so they can go there and enjoy their time.
It only rains in winter but if it rains in summer, we also celebrate it as the scarcity of something teaches us the virtue of missing it.
In the Arabian Peninsula, we never thought of possessing an umbrella to shield us from rain and we never became restless in winter nights because of lack of conversation after 10 p.m. Our grandparents went to bed with hopes it will rain and their grandchildren still do the same. In Oregon, however, and in other areas where winter is long, everyone holds on to their umbrellas when it gets cloudy.
Check on your loved ones during all seasons but check twice on them in winter. Try not to end the warm conversation on the dinner table suddenly after 10 p.m. Store some of the summer joy to protect you from the evil of the winter blues and rejoice in the rain that waters the heart before it waters thirsty lands.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.