52 ODES TO JOY: SUNSHINE

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(Photo from Food.com)

ODE TO SUNSHINE

No one should be allowed to kvetch or whine

If they sulk inside while outside there’s sunshine.

Pill-poppers flock druggists for Vitamin D,

When just a few sunny moments turn rays to Vitamin Gee.

Sunshine inside and out are fine, I opine;

Have I told you lately that you are mine?

“The Dandy Who Introduced Sunny Spain to the Shimmering Silver Sun-Worshiping Blanket” is how I expect to be remembered. It was lightweight mylar for traveling and this was the shining 1970’s—think disco ball on sun-kissed sands. When I fluffed my magical mat upon the beautiful beaches of Majorca, suddenly all the eyes that had been ogling topless bathers swiveled in envy to my radiant blankie.

Like Sir Paul McCartney once famously said, “I Follow the Sun”–and have my entire life. I’m writing this in January, but playmate come out and play with me—the air is invigorating and the sun is fine. Like Gale Garnett, “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine.”

I haven’t mapped my DNA, but I’m certain Ancestry.com will illuminate there must have been Egyptian sun-worshippers on top of my family tree, not, Ra forbid, in the shade. They were probably handsome princes and beautiful princesses–isn’t that how it works for every Ancestry.com customer?

Sun-worship is commonly associated with “pagan” rituals, but many old religions like Judaism and Christianity revolve around the solar cycle. Hindus have the god Surya who is represented by the sun and sheds light on both good and evil while ridding the darkness of nightmares and diseases. Now, that’s a handy god to have during a pandemic or a power grid blackout.

Most of the Roman gods had solar-like qualities, and even Jesus of Nazareth acquired the traits of popular “sun gods.” The feast of the Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) was a popular, Romanesque tradition celebrated on December 25.

My ancestors, the indigenous people of the Americas, extensively worshipped the sun before European border crossings. The joyous “Sun Dance” practiced and performed by Native Americans—think disco in the desert—came at the end of winter.

Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico and Peru worshiped the sun. The Aztec gods Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca had sky-scraping temples raised to the sun and demanded human sacrifice to remain shiny and happy. Lordy mercy, and I thought my Episcopal priest was a drama royale.

ODES TO SUNSHINE FROM OTHERS:

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”—Helen Keller

“Some people are so much sunshine to the square inch.”—Walt Whitman

“Yeah, sure, the sun will age my skin, and all these giggles and smiles with you will, over time, will crack up my face and give me wrinkles…sunshine, giggles, smiles, you? That’s happiness, baby I’m living!”—Bodhi Smith

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”—Victor Hugo

“The sun–the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life and hope, and freshness to man—burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-colored glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.”—Charles Dickens, “Oliver Twist”

“Laughter is a sunbeam of the soul.”—Thomas Mann, “The Magic Mountain”

“But once in a while, you pick the right thing, the exact best thing…The sunshine on your face, warm enough to make your heart sing.”—Sarah Ockler, “Bittersweet”

“Whiskey is liquid sunshine.”—George Bernard Shaw

“We must leave this terrifying place tomorrow and go searching for sunshine.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Joy sneaks in…I have the desire to be filled with sunlight, to soak my skin in as much of it as I can drink up, after the long interior darkness of the past season, the indoor vigil, in this harshest and darkest of winters, outside and in.”—Mark Doty, “Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir”

“Let there always be a bright spot in your heart for the people around you. They might need a bit of sunshine.”—Ron Baratono

“Shade is a two-faced friend

In the heat of summer

It provides a welcome respite

Yet in winter’s chill

It hides the warming sun.”—Richard L. Ratliff

“As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness—just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and homefolks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”—Laura Ingalls Wilder

WAYS TO ADD MORE SUNSHINE TO YOUR LIFE (from 40 years of Joy & Gerontology):

  1. MIRROR—Hang a large mirror on the wall across from a window (see the photo for a local source; Cullman Furniture Market, Alisa Thompson, Manager). Patrick J. Hamilton, a witty, NYC friend who happens to be a nationally-recognized interior designer (“Traditional Home Magazine,” “House Beautiful”) and I were chatting about mirrors and this gerontology series, when he quipped, “I use aged, antique glass in my mirrors…Wait, WHAT? They’re not?”
  2. MOVE YOUR WORKSPACE/DESK near a window—I did this with my laptop on a cloudy day this week and immediately felt sunnier, go figure.
  3. TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE—ignore your treadmill on sunny days and take your exercise outside, you will get more air, more Vitamin D and the likelihood of more smiles.
  4. DAYLIGHT BULBS mimic natural light, American brands like Philips and Sylvania now market these which are a bit more blue in the light spectrum; especially popular for kitchens and bathrooms.
  5. TUBULAR SKYLIGHTS are cheaper, smaller and easier to install than traditional skylights (I read about these in “AARP Magazine” which reads like “the official fish-wrapper for frugal folks”), these funnel natural sunlight into a room that no light bulb can.
  6. LIGHT BOX THERAPY? When I lived in a metro-area (back before the earth cooled and long before COVID), I had a post-holiday grumpiness and tried light therapy for my self-diagnosed SAD (seasonal affectedness disorder). I’m not sure it did anything that walking off some eggnog-induced weight gain in sunshine wouldn’t have done better—ask your shrink.
  7. SOAK UP SOME VINCENT VAN GOGH—last weekend, I experienced the sun-filled art expo, “BEYOND VAN GOGH: The Immersive Experience.” It was joy-filled and soul-warming, and you could create a similar experience by luxuriating in these famous artworks online: “Impression, Sunrise” (Claude Monet), “The Weather Project” (Olafur Eliasson), “Dido Building Carthage” (J.M.W. Turner), “Woman Before the Rising Sun” (Caspar David Friedrich) and really almost any Henri Matisse art but start with “Interior in Yellow” (1946).
Photo contributed

Before you put on your mittens and a bit of SPF lotion to savor the sunshine outside, here are a few rays of light humor:

“My mother was an English teacher. She wrote Bill Withers to tell him his song, “Ain’t No Sunshine” was bad grammar. He replied, “I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know.”

“I hate optimists. They’ll jump out of a plane expecting sunshine and rainbows to cushion their fall. Meanwhile, I’ll look both ways before crossing the street and get hit by an optimist.”

“I’ve invented a solar-powered still! It turns sunshine into moonshine.”

SUNNY, JOY-GIVER BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK and a Celebration Recipe:

Jan 8—ELVIS AARON PRESLEY, Jan 9—KATE MIDDLETON, Jan 10—ROD STEWART, Jan 11—ALEXANDER HAMILTON, Jan 12—JOHN SINGER SARGENT, Jan 13—HORATIO ALGER, JR., Jan 14—LL COOL J

                                                WEIGHT WATCHERS’ SUNSHINE SALAD

   You will not need your video screen for instructions on this simple, citrusy salad, so use it to YouTube Katrina and the Waves “Walking on Sunshine” and dance along in the kitchen. It’s January, so FAT-FREE pudding mix is mandated by law.

INGREDIENTS

1 (15 ounce) can of mandarin oranges

1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks

1 (5 1/8 ounce) package of FAT-FREE, instant vanilla pudding mix

DIRECTIONS

Do not drain fruit. Use FAT-FREE pudding mix dry, do not add milk. Combine ingredients and stir well. Chill in the refrigerator about 1 hour. Serve on a bed of lettuce, it will look prettier and show others you are trying to keep your New Year’s resolution to eat more things that grow from the ground.

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1,070 JOY-GIVING THINGS from MY FIRST 70 YEARS (continued):

23. “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver. 24. Jeff Koon’s “Balloon Dog (Blue) sculpture.

25. Northern Cardinals wintering down south.

26. “Keep Your Sunny Side Up.”

27. The music intro of “Perry Mason.”

28. Warm clothes from the dryer on a cold day.

29. Seed catalogs.

30. Judy Garland singing “C’mon Get Happy.”

31. “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” by Lesley Gore.

32. Oranges and cloves simmering.

33. Pomanders.

34. “Walking in Memphis.”

35. Cedar blocks tucked amongst sweaters.

36. “Love Story,” the movie, with a box of Kleenex.

37. “I’ll have what she’s having.”

38. Neighbors shoveling a neighbor’s walkway.

39. Anne Tyler’s “The Accidental Tourist.”

40. Homemade beef and barley soup.

41. “Sunny, one so true, I love you.”

42. Grand Ole Opry radio shows.

43. Cheese straws squeezed through the “star” cookie press.

44. Sunshine yellow Witch Hazel blooming in January.

HAPPY, SUNNY, JOYFUL JANUARY!

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Ben South