“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” ~ Albert Camus.
When I was a child, before the family moved to Jamaica, we would spend each summer by the beach. Before you picture some idyllic tropical island paradise, hold that thought. This was in North Wales, we would pitch an old army tent (bought second hand) in a field above the beach, a beach covered with giant jagged rocks which broke out of the sand like giant sharks’ fins. Picture grey skies and endless rain broken by occasional less cold, less wet patches. Picture kids playing (freezing) on the beach, wearing sweaters as they dug damp sand, and climbed the sharp edged rocks declaring ‘I’m the king of the castle’. Picture kids (freezing) taking a swim in the chilly water – the beach was at an estuary where two rivers met the sea. The rivers originated in the mountains of Snowdonia, so chilly fresh water mixed with the never warmed up Irish Sea. Picture white kids blue with cold, goosebumps raised, begging to come out of the water. Picture a father standing at the edge (wearing a sweater) laughing, encouraging you to stay in longer. Picture a mother, portable camper stove at the ready, hot soup and a blanket waiting to wrap you warmly while your teeth chattered and threatened to fall out of your head.
The British are said to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ – meant to signify that they can tough it out in harsh situations. I always think of British summers when I think of that stiff upper lip – crowds of people on a beach, temperature not hitting 60, but they are on their ‘holidays’ so they are determined to get their sun and beach time. Of course, over the last 50 years things have changed, the British found sunshine in Southern Spain, in the Caribbean, so have been able to return to work sporting real tans.
When I started to travel outside of the US again, some years ago, I made sure to bring a journal along with me. First impressions are so crucial, but they tend to fade if not captured, whether in words or photos. I knew that I needed to take note of my surroundings, to record the sounds, the smells, the sights. Just as the faded recollection of our firstborn child is brought sharply into focus when we gaze at our subsequent babies, it is when we return to places after an absence that old memories come to the fore. Those of us who were lucky enough to be world travelers before Covid clipped our wings will probably find that we will appreciate those journeys so much more once they resume.
In these wild and crazy days at the end of the first (hopefully last) experiment with democracy, it has been restorative to focus on nature, instead of human nature which has proven to be fickle. The cycles of creation, destruction and rebirth; the reliable phases of the moon and the soothing crashing of waves onto the shore; Nature does not scream at cable news, it does not waste time worrying about the antics of man, it just keeps on surviving and thriving, hibernating and reappearing.
In the same way as green shoots on what appear to be dead tree limbs each Spring are surprising glimmers of hope that winter will end, we are seeing hope and promise in lines of people patiently waiting to vote. Amongst the angry cries of predatory so-called patriots we can hear soothing voices of sensible, caring every day people who remind us that we are in the majority, that the voices of hate may be loud, but they are relatively few.
In Jamaica when I was young (in fact, I believe it is still the case), you showed you had voted by dipping your finger in the ink – a purple (was it gentian violet?) dye that stained your finger for days to come. It ensured there would be no ‘double-dipping’ – it would be one ‘man’ one vote. Now we have vote by mail, electronic votes, and a president who is suggesting that this ‘greatest country on earth’ cannot guarantee the security of the vote. When I look at the lines of people waiting hours to vote in ‘early voting’, I wonder what would happen if people were only allowed to vote in person on election day? When would they start lining up? Where would the line end? There has to be a better way.
It is easy to get discouraged by the rhetoric of divisiveness and hate, to doubt that common sense, decency, tolerance and respect for human dignity will rule the day. Many of us are still shell-shocked, still suffering from PTSD from four years ago. We are terrified at the sight of masses of people who have suspended disbelief to ignore science and laugh at facts, to congregate in close proximity and risk the health of themselves and any they will then come in contact with. But if we study nature we can hold firm, knowing that it is always darkest before the dawn.
On this last Friday morning before the election, let us figuratively reach out to each other, to hold hands and stand united, celebrating all those things that we have in common. Let us be comforted by the sight of trees, who may be buffeted by the winds, drenched by the rain, burnt by the sun, yet they are resilient and faithful, taking in our carbon dioxide, providing us with oxygen, day after day after day. Let us be encouraged by the persistence of water which has the power to carve through the toughest of rocks, drop by drop, century after century. Let us breathe in healing energy, and send out love and compassion to all of our fellow human beings (yes, even the stupid ones!), and trust in Martin Luther King Jr.’s reminder that the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.
Have a wonderful, hopeful weekend, Family! Remember (stolen from a movie) it all works out in the end, and if it hasn’t worked out, that means that it’s not the end!