SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Blue Monday
By Dave Kiffer


January 27, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - As usual, I was feeling a little depressed on Monday. The weather was dark and icky, the holiday season was passed, our trip to sunny California was over.

Mondays are always bad for me because I am not a morning person and Monday is the morning of the week. Life would just be a whole lot better if I could sleep in until Wednesday.

But little did I know that there is a reason for doldrums: A Welsh psychologist says that Monday, January 23rd is the most depressing day of the year.

jpg The Blues

The Blues
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That's a pretty big claim. After all, there could be an awful lot (or a lot of awful) potentially depressing days in our calendar.

Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University says that January 23rd should be called "Blue Monday" for those us in the Northern Hemisphere. He says that a variety of factors figure in to the equation.

First, the weather is usually dreary at best and miserable at worst. By late January you finally have to admit it aint gonna be a white Christmas after all.

Second, Christmas has been over for nearly a month. Your last ho-ho-ho has up and done ho-hoed on outta here.

Third, we overspent at Christmas and the bills are starting to come due. We realize that the minimum due is nearly as high as the mortgage..

Fourth, by the last week in January you know that New Year's Resolution to be nicer to your fellow persons just ain't working out.

So there you have it. All the faux joy of the holidays has come to an end and - according to Dr. Arnall - January 23rd is the day of reckoning. That makes me feel soooo much better.

There is some truth in pointing to mid January as a depressing time, but that would then lead one to conclude that "those gray skies are gonna clear up" and that from now on all we have to do "is put on a happy face."

Despite my personal blues, I'm not so sure that we reached the nadir on "Blue Monday" and that everything is now looking up.

For example in Ketchikan, February is a frequently depressing month. Weatherwise, it's not so bad. It usually gets colder and a little snowier than January and we often get that week or so of clear skies and sub-freezing temps that freeze the lakes.

But another thing usually happens that affects us in a negative way. The local "issue" arises.

I'm not sure why February is usually the month in which a single irritating topic seems to take hold of the public discourse. Maybe, it's because traditionally it is one of the slowest months and we all sit around thinking too much.

Maybe the political differences that were set aside so we could survive holiday table talk finally just bubble back to the surface.

Perhaps we're just bored and "cabin fever" gets us itching for a fight.

Whatever the reason, February is usually the time when some dormant issue (sex ed in the classrooms, boat harbor stall allocation, KPU utility rates, whatever) comes to the surface (the scum also rises?) and we start slapping each other upside the head in public meetings and letters to the editor.

And although the "debate" is often fascinating - in much the same way that a car accident is so watchable - it's depressing because so much spleen is vented and there never seems to a solution. After a while, the "issue" just goes dormant again until the next outbreak.

March is also usually a pretty depressing month around these parts. Yes, the days are getting longer, but they are not doing it quickly enough.

I've never been able to figure out why it is that the days get short so fast in the fall but get longer so slowly in the spring. You'd think the earth's orbit wasn't so elliptical after all.

And in Ketchikan, March usually comes in a like a lion and goes out like one too. Other than October it seems to be the one month in which the sheets of wind and rain never stop.

T.S. Eliot thought that April is the cruelest month and maybe it is. In Ketchikan, the first blooms of April usually look like periscopes shooting up from the mud puddles. April frequently also contains at least one week or so of unseasonably warm weather that gets up our hopes for a nice summer and inspires us to start sprucing up our properties.

That unseasonably warm week is then followed by the torrents of May. Few things are more depressing that all the half painted, scaffolding ringed houses and businesses that you know are not going to get finished before December because we already had our week of sunshine for the year - in April.

June is also a little depressing when the weather is poor (which is just about every year) but usually we don't notice so much because Ketchikan is busy doing all those things we have avoided doing for the last six months. We are in such a hurry to make up for the previous downtime that we dodge amongst the raindrops without even getting wet. Well, sort of.

July, though, is another story. We notice when it rains in July.

Face it, if it's windy and rainy just about any other time of the year, you shrug. But when - note I didn't say if - it's raining in July, we all get that smidgen of doubt, that little voice reminding us "it's summer somewhere else, it's summer somewhere else, it's summer somewhere else. Go somewhere else and see. It's summer somewhere else."

It's hard to ignore that persistent little voice. What if it really were summer somewhere else? What if there really were places where you didn't wear Extra-Tuff sandals and Gore Tex sun bonnets in July? What if there really were a place where camping out in July did not lead to hypothermia?

Fortunately, we in Ketchikan are secure in our knowledge that we are smart, rational folks and if there truly were somewhere on earth that it didn't rain in July, well we'd move there faster than a slug on a hot (corrugated) tin roof. Wouldn't we?

And besides, we know that the weather always turns gloriously bright and sunny (80 degrees!) the first week in August. Summer arrives and we are bombarded with images of white pasty skin peeking out from all over the place. We walk with our faces uncovered, absorbing that luxurious hot blast of the sun and - inevitably - sneeze.

Of course, summer lasts about a week before you feel that first hint of frost in the air and the leaves start falling of the alders.

The good professor of Wales probably has a point when he says that most denizens of the Northern Hemisphere hit the bottom on Jan. 23rd. But not me. I like to have something to look forward to.

Like in a day in late July, when it will occur to me that my flip flops will not be leaving the closet and my tennis racket will continue its decade long siesta for at least another year.

I will then hit the bottom and almost be convinced that yes, indeed "it is summer, somewhere."


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2005

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