Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Dinge 

Technically spring, but without the bounce.

I always wondered if the word dingy meant the same to other people as it meant to our family. While others used it to mean dirty or grimy, we more often used to describe a dimly lit room. My mother might find you reading in the living room and say, “It’s so dingy in here! Turn on some lights.” Then she would flip on the lights whether you wanted them on or not. On one occasion, Mom found me reading on the couch, then announced the room was too dingy, then turned on the lights. I continued reading. A few minutes later Dad popped his head in, turned off the lights obviously not seeing me there and thinking of all the wasted hydro used illuminating an empty room.

One word I was sure my mother invented was “dinge”. She would often say, “I don’t like the dinge.” (rhymes with hinge), after turning on a light. “Dinge” being the “dimness” itself. This being the noun form of dingy, not a word for the darkness itself but for the discoloured grey light that cast a pallor over a place. The eery black and white world during an eclipse makes me think of the dinge. When I moved away from home, I rarely heard anyone describe a dim room or a grey day as dingy. That is until I was in the UK and a weather report described a forecast of overcast skies as dingy, with the dinge continuing into the weekend. Is British weather so bleak as to be described as dingy? Yes it is. Was dinge a meteorological term? In England, apparently it is.

What now would my mother or that British forecaster have thought of our winter here in Toronto? We’ve had the darkest winter in 80 years of recorded daylight. That lack of sunlight, of colour, can really wear you down. Everybody now knows of the "winter blahs/blues/SADS" and so on, not to mention treatment with artificial sun lamps, but what of the winter greys? That's what we've collectively had this year. Of course, Germans have a word for the darkness and stillness of winter: Dunkelflaute or dark lull. It's actually considered an energy challenge as there isn't enough sunlight, nor wind, to power up solar panels or wind turbines. Maybe the English version is "dinge".

We did just have a week of sun and heat that would put California to shame, and people really did bounce back. I can't say for certain but I feel as though crime numbers went down and charitable donations went up. Any bad news can be forgotten when you can go for a stroll or a bike ride in the sun. At some point this winter, a plant in my bathroom looked as flaccid as cooked spinach. I gave it only a cup of water and an hour later it was singing sunshine and lollipops, just from that one cup of water. That’s what we’ll need to do when spring arrives, real spring not the vernal equinox which is nothing more than a plot point in space.



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