Ennui is one of those words Iíve never quite figured out. I almost never spell it right, I have no idea how to pronounce it, and the overtly French nature of the word leaves me feeling like a character in a Sartre play every time I try to use it, all mumble and distressed and inner-dialoguey.
For all its faults, it is a word that just works for certain situations. And with fall firmly upon us, it is working for me. I am reeling from an overwhelming sense of ennui.
Actually, I think I flubbed the usage already. One doesnít really reel with ennui, itís more passive than that. It is probably more accurate to say I am lowing or lulling with ennui. Overwhelming is the wrong word too. Itís not like some cartoon Sisyphean boulder rolling down from on high. Itís more like a damp, woolen coat weighing down your mood and spirit. So what Iím actually doing is lulling in a soaked coat of ennui.
It is not fall itself that leaves me in this too much-discussed state. I typically love this season. Autumn offers up almost all my favorite things: football, Oktoberfests and the opportunity to get my kids off the couch and back to school. As a fat man with more than my share of Irish blood, the cool weather is a relief as well. Heck, I even enjoy the homeowner rituals of fall, clearing leaves, putting away the patio furniture and digging the ice scrapers out from under the car seats.
But this fall is different in a multitude of ways. I have not been able to point to any one, specific issue to blame for my mood, just a piling on of smallish burdens that each sucks just a share of the joy of the season.
My 100-year-old house is starting to show its age. I have a leak in the roof and, more dire, a leak in my aging boiler in need of a $2,000 Band-aid.
The temperatures have dipped too precipitously, robing me of those 55 degree days I cherish.
And it doesnít help that, as a football fan, I am facing a trifecta of bad seasons. Like any Browns fan, Iím accustomed to a certain degree of misery, but my fantasy team is off to a 1-and-3 start and my beloved Shawnee Indians have had more hard losses than we are used to. The fact that two of their games were rain-outs just piles metaphor on a hurtful reality.
Still, a few home repair issues and failing football is hardly the sort of thing to leave a man with a disposition so famously sunny rutted in ennui. I keep telling myself, there has to be another answer.
And then I found it. The answer to my question was right there, exactly where I expect to find the answers to all the relevant questions, on the front page of The Lima News.
An A-1 story in Wednesdayís paper spells out in some detail why we should not expect to see the sort of brilliant display of autumn leaves we have come to expect. The science is way over my head, but the gist of it is that the hot, dry months of summer messed with the trees in a way that will alter the colors that turn to. The naturalists quoted in Adrienne McGee Sterrettís story say the trees will be pretty, but not as brilliant as in typical years.
I suspect that may play a part in my current funk. Broken stuff, cold weather and bad football may take their toll, but it is the cue of fall color I am missing.
The one thing every expat brings up when they leave for warmer climes is how much they miss the change of seasons (well, that and Kewpee). Now I find myself stuck with the bad part of the season and none of the good, None of the great, close football games. None of the glorious sweatshirt weather. And worst of all, none of the brilliance.
A life without color, without brightness, without brilliance, that is what I'm am suffering through right now. On the bright side, I finally have a grasp of the meaning of ennui.