The feral-ish outdoor cats we care for are fat, lazy and happy. They lounge on the furniture and luxuriate in the sun. They have forgotten all about the harsh, prolonged winter we just experienced that really only left for good in the middle of May. It's easy to forget how cold and bleak the winter can be when you feel the warm sun on your skin.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, however, there is that nagging, niggling little thought about how fleeting this all is. Summer, as majestic and rich as it is, is only here for a few short months...thirteen weeks...twenty six weekend days...ninety some-odd total days.
And then, the dying begins. The petals drop and the days get shorter. The leaves start falling and everywhere has the smell of rotting, dying vegetation that only weeks earlier was a delight to the eyes and nose.
And I feel myself dying with it. My life becomes smaller in the dark, cold time of the year. I retreat within myself, like a caterpillar making a cocoon. I want to sleep a lot. I want to eat and sleep and watch bad television and pretend that it isn't happening...but it is and it does every year... if I am lucky, I guess. If I am lucky, I will get to experience this for many, many years to come.
I find that the older I get, the harder this change is for me. If find myself waking up in July dreading the end of what has really only just started. I get myself worked up about sleeping too late or missing any, tiny part of it. I mourn every lily at the end of every day. I wonder if I am missing it in my mourning. Am I missing the beauty because I mourn it's passing? Or, is there beauty in both? The beauty in a lily is in the fact that it is impermanent. It awakens on the day it is ready and for that day, it is full of life. When the sun sets, it is all over. This doesn't make the lily less beautiful, but more.
It is July. I live in the Midwest, outside of Chicago and the joke here is that we only have two seasons: Winter and 4th of July. Sometimes, it's "Winter and Road Construction". Maybe that is part of my problem. Once the 4th is past, I start thinking about that other season. I am an optimist who is constantly warring with the pessimist inside. My optimist is a bookish wimp and my pessimist takes steroids and works out...a lot. My optimist tries to use logic: "It's only early July!" and my pessimist sends her a mighty backhand. My pessimist would always rather fight than reason.
July fourth is tomorrow. It is high summer; hot, fun, full of life and food and festivals and carnivals and music and fireworks. It is a cause for celebration and something to think about when we are knee deep in dirty snow on a dark and miserable January afternoon.
Summer is a limited edition and each one, though similar, is unique. Grab on to it, bury your nose in it and breathe deep. Make a memory and hold it close to your heart.
We are alive in this glorious, fleeting moment. Let's make the most of it. And tell your inner pessimist to shut it.