When I was a teenager, I was so cranky in the wintertime that my mother gave me a little framed quotation by Albert Camus. (On a normal day, she was more likely to give me an earful for my griping and whining, but I think she secretly sympathized.)
In the years since, I have gazed upon that little frame so many times, willing a little shoot of green joy to poke up through the dirt of midwinter. Of course, Camus was talking about much more than two seasons, and it is that daily rush of renewed hope and optimism – that invincible summer within – that I hang onto for dear life.
I was born in February, the darkest, meanest month of all – a month of short days, low sun, and a paucity of plant life. By then, we have descended at least three months into winter, and there are many more weeks to go before we can climb up and out, until life and warmth return to my part of the earth. Glistening snow has turned to filthy mush, and the cozy glow and attraction of hot tea and cozy throws and fires is on its last flicker.
In a literal way, I escape winter by physically seeking summer – flying south as far as necessary to chase down some heat and sun. In recent years, I’ve made it to Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia and, just last week, Nicaragua, in the dead of our winter and have thawed my bones enough to get me into spring.
But I don’t think that’s what Camus had in mind, and the kind of summer I keep inside me is a different and truer source of warmth. Although you will frequently find me bitching about the weather, the summer sun burns inside me in other ways. We live in a mess of a world, but I stubbornly see more lightness than darkness, more good than bad, especially in my travels.
In the midst of dire poverty, I have seen incredible generosity – the poor helping the poor and even offering the rich the little they have. After the worst days of clouds and rain, I have witnessed the best sunsets. And trite but true, the happiest people I have met have the fewest material goods.
Even at home, my invincible summer dawns every day. It starts with coffee, and builds through little things like a bit of fresh air, a job well done, a smile from a stranger, a new book suggestion, the dawn of comprehension in a student. On the darkest days, in the depths of winter, that tiny flame somehow stays lit, and I am grateful for it.
Prompted by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Optimistic