It is the first day of March, the day I begin to prepare my soul for spring. I awaken this day with a bit of hesitation, still warmed by my heavy, snowflake-print blankets and knowing I will soon begrudgingly trade them for a lightweight imposter. One aspect of winter I love is the weight of those soft fleece blankets, as well as the weight of cable-knit sweaters, scarves comforting my neck and the anchor of tall boots. I find no anchor in the flimsy and unprotected flip flop.
In winter, I greater appreciate the sun upon my face as a crisp winter wind passes through my body, leaving me cleansed. In summer, the sun becomes an enemy, always stalking, slowly wearing me down with its hot breath upon the back of my neck, searing through my clothing and leaving me spent and weary. Summer is no friend of mine. During those months, I awake each morning already looking forward to the evening’s relief.
I often wonder why we fall in love with one season over another. Why some long for the endless days of heat, dressed in scanty summer uniforms for daily skin-offerings to the sun. And others layer themselves from head to foot in joyous anticipation of snow and breath-offerings.
As a child, I didn’t like to sweat and I hated the smell of summer – scents and stenches weigh heavier in the summer heat – salty child bodies at play, dog poop dripping through the neighbor’s fence, the nearby rendering plant an unwanted fog seeping through the screen door and open windows of our home.
I was also self-conscious of my reed-like legs and arms, and my skin that never browned, only pinkened and sometimes burned. I carried this self-consciousness into my teens as I compared my Olive Oyl body to the maturing bodies of my friends and classmates, seeking to cover my “chicken legs” (as some of kids referred to them) rather than wear shorts. In fall and winter, I could add weight to my body through layers of clothing and free myself of envy and self-doubt.
During the fall and winter, I cocooned myself in books, but in the summer my parents wanted us outdoors to get some fresh air and play hard. I inevitably ended up on the hard-plastic seat of our backyard swing set with a book in hand, those skinny legs anchored in Keds barely moving the chains. Summer interrupted those book journeys and entrenched my nickname “the professor” upon the lips of my Uncle Frank.
While I believe our seasonal favoritism is from within, these other aspects surely impacted my love affair with fall and winter – these two seasons became my escape and I continue to look towards them as my seasons of renewal, rejuvenation and peace. Which is why I prepare myself for the pending spring and summer. Like a runner training for a marathon, I begin to exercise my mind and soul for the six-month endurance. Some years, I train better than others and can make my way through the race with a positive outlook of finishing, while others I find myself at a defeated crawl by July 1.
Either way, I know without this soul-searching preparation, which includes reminders of the joy of experiencing four seasons, I would’ve packed my bags and headed north a long, long time ago. So, if you see me still wearing boots at the Memorial Day picnic, or jeans in July, just know these are the uniform pieces of my training, my anchors to get me to the finish line of Autumn Equinox. If inclined, feel free to reach out and hand me a Dixie cup of cool water as I make my way past. Sometimes, you just need a cool drink or a splash of water to finish the race.