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P1040671 The other day I was watching Portlandia in the afternoon down here in Mexico. It was that episode about the annual day in July when the first beam of sunshine returns to Portland after eight months of gray and drizzle. People come rushing out doors with their picnics, bongo drums, sun hats, skateboards, and guitars. I instantly doubled over with guilt, verklempt with shame, suffering a double dose of Sun Guilt in both art and life. The sun was shining, and I was inside making a bracelet. I should have been Out There.

You see, I grew up on the East Coast, where every week of the year included both sunny days and wet days. On the sunny days we went out to play, on the rainy ones we Got Things Done. It all worked out. I contracted Sun Guilt when I moved to Oregon seven years ago. When the weather was gray and rainy for eight months in a row, I Got Stuff Done, including the lecture series I gave on Seasonal Affective Disorder, and still had time to go to daytime movies, bead in front of the television, make clothes, and enjoyed Happy Hours in bars with roaring fireplaces.

Portland in the sun.  (Courtesy www.so-many-places.com)

When the sun comes out, people in Portland play.

But then summer comes, and the sun shines in Portland, inexorably, even monotonously, every day from July 4 to October 10. That first summer, I kept waiting for a rainy day so I could Get Something Done. Nada. Nul. Zip. Zilch. “Oh,” one the natives told me. “Nobody works in the summer here.” Here is the Sun Guilt droning monologue: Move it, sister. Step away from the computer/kitchen/television/sewing machine/craft table/treadmill and get out there. The sun will not last forever!

But it is sunny in Puerto Vallarta almost every day, at least during the half year that we’re here. I’m not good at doing nothing, so afraid of being bored stiff, I plotted a novel to be written, bought a sewing machine to play with, and enlarged my bead stash to make new treasures. Those are all my favorite things, but they are indoor sports. I feel I can’t do anything right. I do my walk, swim, and get my brief doses of Vitamin D sitting outdoors in the sun with a book. All during that time I feel guilty about not being inside making things. When I go inside and make things, I get the big slap of Sun Guilt. Somehow, I don’t do a lot of either baking or making. People complain about SAD. When will there be a cure for the little-discussed SG?

My feet. My beach. My sunset.

My feet. My beach. My sunset.

But it’s not that bad. You know what’s really bad? Sunset Guilt! Sunset Guilt happens around 6 p.m. when the sun is getting bigger and brighter and about to slide down into a pile of clouds that will instantly turn hot pink, in a different pattern every night, and Tom and I are on a bus or in some restaurant downtown and not on our patio at the edge of the sea watching every second of that sunset’s festive glory. 

And so, more often than not, we pour margaritas and settle in our lounge chairs facing west over the Pacific, and the show goes on for an hour, and we just can’t be anywhere else. Like the sun, that view is not going to be ours forever. Only six months. Now and then we may say, “We should go out to eat/sightsee/visit!“ But we stay put. Sun Guilt is one thing, but Sunset Guilt is just too much to bear.


(Portland photo credit:Courtesy http://www.so-many-places.com)