I am blinking and shielding my eyes as I look toward another hot and humid Florida summer, and I am thinking about winter.
One of my favorite poets, Louise Gluck, invokes winter in “Snowdrops”: “You know what despair is; then winter should have meaning for you,” she writes.
I lived in Chicago for ten years, and winter has meaning for me. But I also know what despair is, so I think I would understand winter even if I had never felt the icy wind that blows off Lake Michigan.
Toward the end of a long winter, it is possible, even easy, to stop believing in spring. It is possible to doubt that you will ever again feel warm sunshine on your bare arm.
This kind of doubt seems ridiculous. Haven’t I witnessed the earth turning year after year for decades? Don’t I know that spring always returns?
I know this, that spring always comes, and I know something else: it is better after waiting. Waiting out a long winter, whether literal or metaphorical, is incredibly, sometimes unbelievably, difficult. Even when I hold tight to my belief in spring’s return, I can tip over into despair, like a teeter-totter shifting between faith and fear.
Having walked through a decade of winters, winters that were often seasons of my soul as much as seasons on the calendar, I know that the sunshine and warm air feel better, richer, more precious after waiting. Even now, knowing what I know, I can still waste too much effort wishing away the waiting, trying to speed up time.
Today, looking toward several months of heat and humidity (though the near-constant coastal breezes do offer some relief), I want to wish it away, as if I could push some sort of cosmic fast-forward button. It’s the weather, yes, (I may have grown up in Texas, but I have never been a hot-weather person), but it’s also a whole season of waiting.
Here, in Florida, we are in-between. Our careers and the long miles between us and family suggest that we will not stay here long, but we don’t know where we’ll go next or when that might happen. We are waiting, yet trying to find within the temporary some sense of at-home-ness. At times, I despair. I begin to believe that I’ll always be frozen in this place, with this weather.
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!”
– Isaiah 30:18