“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there is in me an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus
We know all about winter in the North Country. In Minnesota, where I live. We know what to expect, and we know how to expect it. How to prepare. Getting the necessities out of their storage places and making them ready for what is to come: bitter cold, snow storms and blizzards; slippery roads and several layers of clothes to put on just to go to the grocery store. Shorter light and longer dark.
The summer fields of wild grasses and bright wildflowers are a distant memory then, but we still bring them out on those days when winter has taken too great a toll on our spirits. Sometimes it helps.
We remember. We soothe ourselves with the memories of warmth and green and bright sunshine and shorts and flip flops, with the sparkling waters of our 10,000 lakes; camping and fishing and reunions and baseball and graduations and county fairs and concerts under the stars. We remember.
Sometimes it helps. Sometimes, if remembering isn’t enough and we have the resources, we hop a plane to anywhere where it’s warm and days are longer.
“I learned that there is in me an invincible summer.”
Invincible: incapable of being conquered, overcome or subdued..” (Merriam Webster)
My imagination was caught by these words recently and I couldn’t let them go. So, I write about them, hoping to understand them more fully. To see if that “invincible summer” is in me.
“In me.” Inside each of us lies an invincible summer, whether we’ve ever recognized it or not. When we’re in our own personal seasons of winter, we can’t see it or feel it. But even without knowing it, we desperately want it.
Those winters settle inside our souls. The days are grey and the nights never seem to end. The feeling of wanting to just cover up and hope that the day will end soon wraps our spirits. The sense that we have no purpose – and no love – that we’re just lost and can’t find our way. The winters of our griefs.
The winters that we didn’t know we needed to prepare for.
So many of us suffer the winters of our souls silently.
But that invincible summer is already there, hidden, awaiting its time.
Unknown to us in mid-winter, somewhere in the dark, there is an unexpected spark, a small, dim light. A sudden realization or an unexpected experience waiting to shake us gently. Wake up! I’m here!
Remember the song? Bette Midler? A classic!
“When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long;
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong;
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,
In the spring, becomes the rose.”
The longer we live, the more the depths of winter become a part of our history. Every hard loss, every grief, every unwanted change is remembered as a winter.
And then we discover that each one became a birthing place until a new warmth and light appeared. Each one had prepared us for the next long nights and dark days.
And every one turned out to be the backbone of our resilience.
Every one has been part of the graces of elderhood.
They have been the opening to the invincible summers of our later years.
And the seed that has waited its time is the seed of hope.
In the winters, how do we find even a nanosecond of hope? How do we hold on to the hope that we will be met by someone, something that lights the world again; maybe the smallest of chances, but a chance nonetheless; maybe the faintest of lights, but light nonetheless?
We get there by grace. And hope is a grace that can last long enough.
Hope that may seem impossible, but hope that appears nonetheless.
That’s all it needs to be – even the faintest of lights. Because when any light is there, it’s harder to give up. Our curiosity gets caught. Our longing for the “invincible summer” that hovers beyond our understanding is too great for us to let go just yet.
We may be in a dark, quiet room. We may be sitting on a beach, gathering the waves. We may be huddled in prayer or contemplation. We may be standing on a hilltop or walking in a valley. We may be listening to music in the background that is unknowingly touching our spirit. We may be writing in a journal and a new awareness shows up unannounced. Sometime, something gets through our hope and opens the door.
Every life has its home in grace.
And hope is a grace that brings us back there.
May it be so for you – for me – for every sister and brother who longs for the warmth again. For wildflowers and sunshine and laughter – and the knowledge that their life has meaning.
And perhaps they long for us.
For us to be the one who will see them, who will bring the light.