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.
PETALUMA PIANO FESTIVAL & COMPETITION
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).
PETALUMA RIVER CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL
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.