The Itch

The Inter-Tropical Convergence  Zone—more familiarly, the ITCZ (called the “Itch”)—is a belt about 5 degrees north and south of the Equator.  It is an area where the northern and southern trade winds clash, causing storms and then pushing the air upwards and becalming the atmosphere into windlessness: the doldrums.

Although the etymology of the word is uncertain (it is only known that it derives from Old English dol meaning ‘dull’), and its first recorded use was as late as the eighteenth century, the figurative meaning of the word is ‘despondency.’  It has come to be associated with feelings of sadness accompanied by oppressive weather, such as high humidity.

So, being “in the doldrums” is now popularly a way to express a listlessness—both physical and mental, perhaps even spiritual.  The poet T.S. Eliot preferred to describe it as aboulie, a French term describing a lack of volition or will. The widely-used American term is “the blues.”

And all of this is just to say that I’m going through my own creative doldrums, blues, aboulie.  I’m barely able to write poems of more than seven or eight lines, I have no desire to continue work on short stories or novels, and I find it difficult to even do any reading/research on an idea I have for a piece of fiction. I think for me, having taught for so many years, it has to do with the time of year: the end of August and the beginning of September always signals a change in lifestyle for me, once meaning changing gears from the leisurely pace of summer to the hectic schedule of classes.  Now retired, my body and mind still respond to the same rhythms, it seems.  So, here I sit, end of August, like a sailing ship caught in the doldrums, unable to move, stuck in stillness.

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