Holding onto summer’s escape was like playing tug of war in the third grade, boys against girls. The jagged rope painfully slipped through my fingers leaving me to wonder where it all went so damn fast. The growing absence of the leaves and steady increase in layers to keep warm were unwelcome from the start, yet grudgingly accepted like a playground defeat. Thankfully winter has flown before my eyes this year, and with a few days to go until the first day of spring and my film freshly developed, I’ve compiled it all into a photo diary of sorts. Here I reflect on all I’ve done, learned, and loved these past few months.
Soon after winter set in, the desolate weather beyond my windows consumed me in a feeling of unshakeable negativity. In the beginning, many days I found myself under my covers, lost in my thoughts with my eyes to the ceiling feeling a sort of numbness. My friends and I say “she’s got the winter blues” when we joke about one another’s seasonal depression. It seems as though all around me depression in the winter is treated as a given. Like it’s something normal you live with until the arrival of the springtime sun thaws the ground and warms the breezes so they don’t numb your hands and everything feels moderately okay again. At a certain point though, even my bed started to feel cold and my walls too close together and I realized that life doesn’t completely suck under the winter sun. There was beauty all around me, I just had to go find it.
It actually was an unseasonably warm winter this year, so I made it a point to spend time outdoors as much as possible. Many sunshine filled days my friends and I spent walking the lengths of beaches close to home, watching our long shadows dance in the sand as we would mindlessly hop between algae covered boulders, accidentally slipping into the approaching freezing waves that would salt our boots and soak us through our wool socks.
I’m trying to hold on to every moment of this last year I get to spend with my friends. Sometimes I stop and admire them all laughing and dancing and thank my lucky stars to be surrounded by such beautifully kind souls. The impermanence of this year has really gotten to me. I feel as though I'm in this race against the inevitability that we are all going our separate ways very soon. Much of the time it feels like I’m living moments that are lasts. I honestly don’t really know how to feel.
After many years of putting it off, I finally got my drivers license. It’s predictably been one of the most freeing things in my life. After passing my test I took my first drive solo down one of my favorite roads where the shadows hang just right around five and the sunlight filters through the trees flickering warmth through the windows. The radio serendipitously serenaded me with Blackbird by The Beatles; it was an irreplicable moment and feeling that I will never forget.
I’ve been taking the long way home more often than not, rolling by with the music volume on high. The old beat up car I drive has no aux, forcing me me to crank the trusty old radio. I have grown to love the staticky, low quality sound and the uncertainty of what song comes next. For some reason I’ve always associated the radio with today’s overplayed “hits” but I’ve come to rediscover so many amazing songs on the air. It’s been a cool way to find new music to listen to. Cool102 Classic Rock has my heart.
The dumptique has become my favorite place to poke around for new treasures. It’s essentially just a free thrift store at the dump near where I live that has the comfiest worn-in sweatshirts and random odds and ends. It’s a great way to recycle and up-cycle things that otherwise would have been tossed out with the rest of the trash, keeping perfectly usable clothing and items out of landfills.
It’s walls are lined with shelves of worn out books that oftentimes have notes in the margins and if I’m lucky, forgotten pressed flowers from forever ago. It’s fascinating to see how another mind reacts to the story looking at the etchings scribbled along the pages. Some insightful, others illegible, and most shed light on the text in a way I would have never thought of.
I recently graduated high school a semester early, so between working a few hours here and there I find myself with a lot of time on my hands for the first time in my life. I’ve been spending it as a sort of school of thought and a time to expand my mind in a way that isn’t memorizing useless facts later to be forgotten. I try to rise with the sun (still working on that part) and meditate in a five minute increase per day. I started at just five minutes per morning and have capped it at an hour, for now. It changes my whole vibe throughout the day and I notice a difference when I don’t meditate, I feel my nerves are more rattled and my mind more manic.
In my car parked at the beach or during breakfast I flip through a few chapters of whatever book I’m trying to tackle from the stack sitting on my nightstand. I have just finished The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, Franny and Zooey by J.D Salinger, and Blue Jean Buddha, a collection of essays by young buddhists who practice and balance lives in the material world with asceticism. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in what Buddhism can look like for someone still in their youth. It sheds light on the stigma and misconceptualization of Buddhism as a “religion” with a bunch of bald monks meditating in the mountains, when it really goes so much deeper as far as a philosophy goes. Reading essays and stories rooted from firsthand experience of a younger generation’s approach to Buddhism provided an angle that was easy to relate to.
Franny and Zooey was a refreshingly unique chapter-less book containing an interlinked short story and novella. They both portrayed how spirituality in the fifties was misunderstood as it started to trickle in among the youth, long before the spread of spiritual awakening in the 60s and 70s. Franny, short and not so sweet, tells of a young woman feeling caught up in a world full of inauthentic pretense, turning to spirituality as a means of escape. Zooey, is the story of the same young woman’s family members misinterpretation of her existential crisis for a mental breakdown. Honestly, it seemed dry at times and sort of lulled on as it followed characters intertwining relationships with one another. In the end though, it all tied together and evoked a way to relate to the story like no other because it was just plain and simple. No bells and whistles. No dramatic scenarios you can vaguely relate to your own. It was normal, but a good normal.
The Sun Also Rises surprisingly hit me harder than I expected. Hemingway writes in one of the last lines to close, “Isn't it pretty to think so?” I personally related this to my biggest flaw and dually my greatest quality: how often I daydream and idealize. I let myself take off to the stars in distant thoughts, embellish future situations, expect the best possible outcome ignoring every possible thing that can and will go wrong. I've come to the conclusion it sets me up for tragic heartbreak.
I have shifted my intentions on positive manifestations rather than pretty expectations. Asking for situations to work out as I hope, yet expecting them to run their course with no emotion about it one way or the other. It’s a hard conclusion to draw realizing that external forces are out of our control, but it really is all up to the universe.
After this winter I have realized that the sun in fact also rises, and not so much attention should be paid to the set of the sun and the end of things, rather than the rise of new beautiful beginnings. This coming year I hope, yet don’t assume, for many wonderful things to happen. And as the rise of the sun marks new beginnings, I hope the events of my life follow suit. The spring sun is now close in orbit, and I’m happy to have made it through this winter without completely losing my mind.
may your spring be brighter than the winter sun