This is not a “downer” post. I promise.

On a day when my thoughts go out to a dear, dear friend in NYC, I find myself thinking of the uses of melancholy.

Does a writer write from melancholy or from joy?

Melancholy is a boon when you don’t need it; a gift when circumstances don’t demand it.

Joy is bright and brittle. It throws everything into sharp relief and mocks its opposite number. Joy is a dare; a jeopardy. But melancholy?

Melancholy brings a softening of the light. A smudging of the edges of things. Melancholy is without the frantic energies of joy. It whispers; doesn’t shout. It asks, more softly, “okay, what’s next?” Melancholy understands need. Melancholy knows sympathy. Melancholy lives gently in a place it knows it cannot control. Melancholy smiles in the sunset, regretting the passing of day, knowing another day will come.

Hope lives more comfortably in melancholy than in extroverted joy.

Okay, okay, we need both—that energy of joy that makes us dance; that retreat of  the extroverted electricity that asks us to sit the next one out and invite the hush to come.

I can easily live with both. But one is sweeter. You can guess which that is. Not a bad thing, after all.