A cure for melancholia: upbeat events to carry you through the autumn season

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Often defined as a state of extreme depression or sadness, the word melancholia takes on a somewhat sweeter, deeper and lovelier tone when considered in the context of the autumn season. The great poets of the world have often linked autumn to a sense of melancholy, using beautifully-wrought verse, prose and poetry to describe the fading of summer and the coming of winter, with autumn standing as the long, light-graying, leaf-dropping transition point between the two.

In William Butler Yeats’ 1916 poem “The Wild Swans at Coole,” he wistfully looks back on days when, younger and lighter of heart, he “trod with a lighter tread” the paths around a small lake at Coole Park, in County Galway. In his poem, he compares his own aging body and soul to the fall season around him, a time of year that brings color-changing trees (“in the their autumn beauty”), lusterless skies, and the impending departure of the swans (“mysterious, beautiful”) on the lake.

The great Romantic-era poet John Keats, in his beautiful ode “To Autumn,” describes the full fall season, from the “mellow fruitfulness” of harvest to the mourning songs of hedge-crickets and gnats (“a wailful choir”), the loud-bleating lambs, and a noisy assortment birds (“The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft, and gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” Throughout the poem is a blanket-heavy mood of melancholy, rich with a sense of the impending farewell of the dying year.

Even Tom Waits, our own great Romantic poet of melancholy, has touched on autumn as a sweetly gloomy metaphor for loss. In “Last Leaf,” he describes the fall season from the point-of-view of a leaf, tenaciously surviving numerous successive autumns. The song begins with the refrain, “I’m the last leaf on the tree/the autumn took the rest, but they won’t take me/I’m the last leaf on the tree.” Toward the end, Waits sings, “I’ll be here through eternity/if you want to know how long/if they cut down this tree/I’ll show up in a song.”

Which brings us to our exact point.

When faced with melancholia, especially during the autumn, there is a natural cure in the form of music, song, dance, and festive celebration. Here, to help you plot your course through the coming melancholy of fall, are several events sure to lighten your mood and keep you going through autumn, winter and beyond.


Saturday, Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

The Block and Trolley-Railway Museum

Piano-playing musicians of all ages will compete for cash prizes and trophies on colorful, artistically-adorned pianos, as part of this tuneful fundraiser for Petaluma Trolley Living History Railway Museum. Petaluma’s John Maher – aka Petaluma Peter – is organizing the event. $10 online, $12 at the door.

Want to know more? Visit Eventbrite.com (search for Petaluma piano).


Saturday, Sept. 15, 1 p.m - 5 p.m.

Historic Downtown Petaluma

Lured with the slogan “Brews from our backyard, right by the River,” local craft beer fanatics are invited to celebrate the 6th annual Petaluma River Craft Beer festival, sipping on 23 local breweries including Lagunitas, Henhouse, Fogbelt, 2 Tread, Bear Republic and more. Food and drink will be accompanied by live music by the riverfront. You must be 21+ to attend this event. Tickets are $40.

Want to know more? Visit Petalumarivercraftbeerfest.org


Sunday, Sept. 16, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Downtown Petaluma

Here’s what’s going to happen. Beginning in the Hotel Petaluma Ballroom, with readings by three local poets, the annual Petaluma Poetry Walk (which will commence this Sunday), will then move from place to place across the downtown area, with different poets and performers reading and reciting poems and prose in an array of locations, including Bump Bakery on American Alley (noon), River Front Café on the river (1 p.m.), North Bay Café on the boulevard (2 p.m.), Copperfield’s Books on Kentucky (3 p.m.), The Phoenix Theater (4 p.m.) and the Petaluma Historical Library and Museum (5 p.m.), with a big finale at Aqus Café (6 – 8 p.m.). Follow all day, or pick and choose, but do enjoy some live poetry in this unique literary celebration.

Want to know more? PetalumaPoetryWalk.org.


Saturday, Sept. 22, Noon-4 p.m.

Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park

Travel back in time to the days of harvest ranchero celebrations, as the performers of Baile de California and the Yesteryear Dancers demonstrate and teach dances of the 1840s. Attendees will have a chance to learn historic folk dance techniques, and join in the fun on the historic site of countless such celebration in Petaluma’s past. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for kids 6-17, and free for kids under 5 years of age. 3325 Adobe Rd.

Want to know more? Call 762-4871 or visit SonomaParks.org.


Saturday, Sept. 22, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Two Rock Presbyterian Church, Two Rock

For the 72nd year, the Two Rock Presbyterian Church will be hosting its annual Harvest Festival, with oodles of crafts and piles of cookies and pies, raffles and crafts and a silent auction, a good, old-fashioned barbecue chicken dinner, plus plenty of quilts to peruse and purchase. A petting area filled with farm animals will be part of the kids’ area, along with a farm stand where an array of local produce, plants and flowers will be on sale. Live violin music by Kyle Craft will be part of the festivities.

Want to know more? TwoRockValleyPresbyterianChurch.org.


Saturday, Sept. 29, 12 p.m - 4 p.m.

Bodega Bay Oyster Company

Fresh, delicious oysters, served raw or barbecued, are the main attraction of the Petaluma Sunrise Rotary’s annual Oyster Fest fundraiser. Served up with plenty of pasta, beer and wine, soda and water and more, the oysters are courtesy of Bodega Bay Oyster Company, the site of which is where attendees will gather to slurp and sip and contribute to a great community organization. $60 per person. 12830 Valley Ford Rd., Petaluma.

Want to know more? Visit EventBrite and search for Oyster Fest.


Sunday, October 14, 12 p.m.

Hermann Sons Hall

This is one of the most popular local Octoberfest events in Sonoma County. You cannot beat the authentic revelry of the annual shindig thrown by Hermann Sons’ Petaluma Lodge #26. Festivities begin with a parade of flags, followed by the first of two performances by the Nature Friends Schuhplattler Folk Dancers, a big feast of bratwurst and all the appropriate side dishes, dancing to the music of the Steve Balich Band, a big raffle, and amiable German high-spirits. Tickets are $14 in advance, $17 at the door, and $12 for the full bratwurst dinner. 860 Western Ave.

Want to know more? For information call 664-0375 or 778-8066.

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