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July 6, 2012 / Rae Spencer

Sunlight

Several years ago, one of my doctors recommended twenty minutes of sunlight per day as part of a treatment plan for depression. (Sunscreen first, of course.) Since then, it seems that more and more medical professionals want to talk about the health benefits of natural light. And I’m eager to listen.

I don’t know if anyone has studied or quantified the healing properties of sunlight, but personal experience convinces me to keep dragging myself outside. Even when the weather is bad. Especially when the weather is bad. It’s easy to feel content standing in a sun-soaked yard. Less easy when the yard is rain soaked, or iced over, or clotted with smog.

In winter, when I sometimes miss my twenty minutes, I lapse into dark moods and sleepy hazes. During the summer, when I average quite a bit more than twenty minutes, I suffer far fewer episodes of depression and/or anxiety.

At first, I tried reading during my sunlight minutes, which led to a few unfortunate sunburns due to forgetting the time (or going to sleep, depending on the book). Then I tried walking, which quickly deteriorated into fitful laps around the yard. I talked on the phone, weeded flower beds, trimmed roses, and doodled in notebooks as poem fragments refused to become poems. I played with the dog and painted the deck. Nothing took. Nothing worked well enough to become a routine, not until my new camera arrived.

Weeks rolled into months as I experimented with the zoom and macro functions. My twenty minutes of sunlight became twenty minutes of photography, which became this blog. Despite appearances, this isn’t a photography blog or writing blog or poetry blog. It’s a depression and anxiety blog. A sunlight and yard blog, measured in twenty minute increments.

Yesterday’s twenty minutes found a honey bee, a moth, and a spider web (look away, if you’re arachnophobic…)

After the spiderweb, my twenty minutes stretched into an hour, due to this butterfly. (I believe it is an Eastern Tailed Blue.) It flitted through the sparse patches of clover in our back yard,  ignoring my eccentric hands-and-knees pursuit. Today I have a mild sunburn and the remnants of a grass-allergy rash, but I also have these photos…

9 Comments

  1. Gillian / Jul 8 2012 7:31 AM

    Yes, it’s an Eastern Tailed Blue….a nice butterfly to have on your yard list! Twenty years ago they were rare in Ottawa, but have now established themselves and are quite common.

    I, too, find I suffer less depression when I’m able to get outside and spend a couple of hours looking for and photographing wildlife. It started with birds and then expanded to insects, reptiles, mammals etc. I also find I notice the weather less when I’m focused on looking at some interesting, whether a new bug for my yard list or the antics of familiar species such as Blue Jays or Eastern Kingbirds. I recall the day I saw a Three-Toed Woodpecker for the first time – it was bitterly cold, at -20C, but I didn’t notice that while I was watching the bird!

    Good luck with coping with your depression and anxiety, and keep on enjoying the sunlight!

    • Rae Spencer / Jul 8 2012 3:30 PM

      It is hard to imagine -20C, given our current run of blistering heat, but I would be willing to sample such bitter cold for a glimpse of a Three-Toed Woodpecker!

  2. CMS / Jul 8 2012 5:02 PM

    You are amazing. It is one of my blessings to know you. Looking forward to reading your new work and watching your blog grow.

    • Rae Spencer / Jul 8 2012 5:49 PM

      Thank you! I’m looking forward to your new blog adventure, too!

  3. bardessdmdenton / Jul 13 2012 10:51 PM

    Hope your depression episodes are fewer and farther between, Rae. I too have been there. I think pursuing a passion can help … Your photographs certainly pull me out of any gloom!

    • Rae Spencer / Jul 14 2012 9:30 PM

      Yes, the depression definitely subsides when I am able to be creative and productive. I’m delighted that you enjoy my photos!

  4. lynnwyvill / Sep 3 2012 7:36 PM

    These photos are spectacular! I absolutely agree that being outside does help lift one’s spirits.
    What kind of camera do you have?

    • Rae Spencer / Sep 4 2012 11:19 PM

      Thank you! (My camera is a Canon PowerShot SX20IS.)

      • lynnwyvill / Sep 5 2012 9:38 AM

        Thank you! Of course, the camera is only part of the story of these wonderful photos. There is your skill as well!

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