This week has been rain, rain, rain, then some more rain. Getting wet, mostly drying off, then getting wet again. I only failed to reach my depression-recovery walking goal once and still managed over 5,000 steps that day (so 2 miles), which has meant a lot of getting rained on.

Like, a lot.

One morning I forced Sophie into her raincoat (which she disapproves of) because it was pouring, and took her to the nearby park to play ball. When we got there, the rain had stopped, so I took her raincoat off. We played ball for probably five minutes before the rain started again — not nearly long enough, in her opinion — so then we played in the rain for a while longer, at least twenty minutes or so, until it just got ridiculous.

The rain was soaking through my waterproof pants at the seams (perhaps why they were in a thrift store to begin with) and leaking into the crevices in my rain coat — the wrists when I raised my arm to throw the ball, the sides of my neck when I turned into the wind. I rounded Sophie up and we headed home, and just about as we reached our street, I realized I didn’t have her raincoat anymore. Ugh.

I went back to the park, giving up on the hood of my raincoat because I was moving against the wind, and just letting myself get drenched. I found her raincoat, of course — no one else was out in the torrential downpour looking for lost things — but by the time we made it home, the interior of my lovely raincoat was damp from all the water that had come in through the hood. It’s stayed vaguely damp ever since, mostly because it gets wet every couple of hours. Sophie, unsurprisingly, does not care that it’s raining. Miss Energizer Bunny needs her exercise and ball-time, regardless of the weather.

Actually, it’s not quite true that she doesn’t care that it’s raining. She gives me Looks at the door when she sees the water hitting the patio surface. Sometimes she will sigh impatiently and retreat back under the bed. Mostly, though, she says, “But I need to RUN! Why have you arranged this so badly?” and we go out anyway. Me, I miss Florida and our swimming pool, which was the world’s best dog hamster wheel/treadmill.

Only because of the rain, though. Mostly I really love Arcata. I walked to the marsh the other day — in the rain, of course, but it had stopped by the time we got there — and saw the loveliest sight; a flock of birds, spiraling around the water outside the marsh. A murmuration, although it probably wasn’t composed of starlings.

Still, the Cambridge English dictionary uses this sentence as its example sentence for the word: “Starling murmurations are one of the most dazzling displays in the natural world.” Dazzling is an excellent word for it. Breathtaking would work, too. It was so beautiful that I could hardly believe what I was seeing. And it was literally just down the street. (I posted a video to Instagram, which you can see in the sidebar of the blog if you don’t use Instagram or follow me there.)

Also literally down the street: a new coffee shop that makes things like rosemary cardamom lattes. So good! Also not something I need to have in my life in so many ways, ha. I really must become a more productive worker some day soon, so that I can afford to buy myself rosemary cardamom lattes on a more regular basis. Or not; it’s not like I need the sugar, the caffeine, or the calories. Still, today is Saturday which is farmer’s market day — yes, in the pouring rain, Arcatans are used to bad weather, although this is a little extreme even for the natives — and I’m probably going to reward myself for my good vegetable habits with a coffee afterwards.

Speaking of working, I spent my week engaged in one of my very favorite unproductive exercises: redesigning book covers. Did I need to redesign book covers? Well… let’s not go there, shall we? Did I have fun redesigning book covers? I did! It was also frustrating sometimes and tedious sometimes and maddening sometimes, but mostly it was fun.

I won’t post them all here right now, because I haven’t made web versions yet — the file sizes would be annoyingly large for posting — but here’s one of the audiobook covers. (I liked it so much that I shared it with the BBE, therefore already made a small version.)

audiobook cover of A Gift of Time

Looking at it now, I want to go back in and nudge that tag line over a little more — ten pixels to the right! — but I’ll have the chance to, I’m sure. It’s one thing to make the covers: changing all the files and uploading all the new covers is a huge and tedious job. The last time I did a redesign, I wound up never using the new covers because I didn’t like them enough that I could face the job. This time… well, I might have to make one last pass through my 500+ fonts to see if there’s any I like better for the Title font, but…

Oh, bah. I just discovered that the font is free for personal use. $350 if I want to use it for a series of books. Dang it, I didn’t think I had any fonts installed that weren’t allowed for commercial use. Well. Sigh. So, yes, I will be reconsidering my font usage. I’m not opposed to paying for fonts: font designers need to make a living, too. But I’m not sure I love it $350 worth. On the other hand, that’s about the price one might usually pay for a single book cover design. So maybe I should consider it a bargain. Somehow I don’t, though.

Moving on! I was going to write about gratitude today. Because gratitude is over-rated in depression recovery — and that’s not just my opinion. A meta-analysis of 27 studies showed that gratitude exercises, while not bad for you, aren’t much use as a treatment for depression or anxiety. That doesn’t surprise me. I did a regular gratitude exercise for years, the one where you write down three things that you’re grateful for every day, and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions about gratitude.

The first is that some gratitude is actually negative gratitude. And negative gratitude is not healthy. Example: I am grateful to have a roof over my head during this interminable rain. Yes, this is a true gratitude. Absolutely true! I am very grateful. But it’s a negative gratitude, because it makes me think about the unhoused people in Arcata and how they’re surviving, and whether I could be doing more to help people in need, and whether I might someday be unhoused myself, and lo-and-behold, suddenly my gratitude has turned into a depression misery spiral of unpleasant thoughts, self-loathing, fear and anxiety.

The second is that gratitude for things — coffee, a warm blanket, a working computer — tends to go superficial fast. Sure, the first day you write “coffee” in your gratitude journal, you might really be thinking about your coffee. The first day you have coffee after you’ve quit for a while, you might really be grateful for your coffee. When a friend brings you hot coffee after an earthquake when the power is out and you can’t make it yourself, yes, you will definitely be grateful for coffee. But mostly, when you write “coffee” down, you’re not feeling it. It’s just a fill-in-the-blank, generic checkmark on a list. And that’s useless. That checkmark on a list doesn’t change how you feel, doesn’t improve your mood, doesn’t build your resilience. It’s a placebo, not a cure.

Does that mean that gratitude is bad? Nope, not at all. But it’s not intrinsically useful for recovering from depression, either. It’s too easy — especially when you’re depressed — for your moment of gratitude to go awry.

Appreciation, on the other hand, is golden. But it’s also more work. And since this blog post has randomly gotten quite long, I’ll write more about it later. Soon, though! I haven’t forgotten that I also want to write about mindfulness, although maybe that will fit in nicely with appreciation. They’re not quite the same thing, but they sure have a lot in common. First, though — some veggie hash, a dog walk, the farmer’s market, a delicious coffee, some Brazilian cheese bread and board games, and maybe a few hours of looking through fonts. Rather more carefully, checking the licenses before I create 7 new covers this time around. $350, ugh. I am not grateful.