Indian Summer

It’s an Indian Summer, as the saying goes. Or used to go. It’s another term that strikes sour with time and understanding. It ages itself out and is left to its own devices alone.

But, just days after there was snow on the ground, when the chill wove its way through the weavings of my thickest jeans, the weather shot up. Nothing can be predicted in 2020, aside from the fact that nothing is predictable.

It is in this warm weather that I pick up another bag of chicken feed. Fifty pounds, the bag is, and I can’t help but notice how easy it is for me to grab it from the back of my hatchback, to heft it up and over my shoulder. 

I can’t help but think of the person I was a decade ago, who struggled with a bag of cat food that was half the weight. Back in the day, where I’ll look at pictures from that time and wonder how my arms didn’t just snap in half.

I’m considerably stronger than I was back then, and it presents itself in small and big ways. There’s a metaphor there. I know it.

— 

I don’t like this time of year. Sunlight is replaced with weight.

Perhaps it’s the holiday season, which is ubiquitously a bittersweet feeling. Perhaps it’s because I still hear the echoes and feel the ripples of the past seasons: when my father’s health really started spiraling out. When I felt set adrift. When heartbreak painted the night sky more than the Chicago skyline itself. This seems to be the perfect time of year for bad news.

I had tried leaning into the holiday cheer. I had tried shunning it. And really all I’ve found that works is that nothing works. 

And that in it itself is a solution. There is no solution, so the only next step is to stand where you are and stay present.

—-

There has to be another name for the phenomenon of the warm weather in autumn, or the summer air after first frost.

Old Wives Summer is an old, problematic phrase from Europe. And there’s St Martin’s Summer, from the same area of the globe. There’s a slew of words from Slavic languages that translate poorly into English.

Nothing that has really stuck in America. The closest shift I’ve seen is the shrug of shoulders as it’s said. The acknowledgement that it’s an outdated term. 

“It used to be called Indian Summer, but that doesn’t seem right to use anymore.” 

The gap between old and new terminology is the term itself, for now. Because sometimes there’s just nothing to replace it, and an uncomfortable emptiness remains instead.

“Meanwhile you could bench press a truck…” my friend jokes as we FaceTime. Yet another friend who had checked in, offered a listening ear. Knew my face had been sodden and soaked recently and offered a digital drink in return. But the conversation is on a slew of other different things, and somehow the topic of my strength has come up.

I remind myself of all these incredible people I have in my life. The friends that check in. The community I have found. Communities. Recalling one of the last times I hung out in a group, before the pandemic hit, when the friend who had arranged the get-together put their hand on my shoulder and told me that the energy shifts when I come in, that the group asks where I am when I’m not there. Sometimes I have a hard time believing that my presence is registered in such a way, is actually cherished that much. That my company is something to be consistently sought after.

“Believe it or not, I can barely do a pull up from a dead hang,” I admit on FaceTime. “And my pushups absolutely suck.”

“I don’t believe that one bit. I don’t.”

“Don’t make me prop up my phone and show you.”

I am stronger. Considerably stronger. I’ve donated clothing that no longer fits, clothing where my muscles strained against the seams like a lion desperate for a bigger cage. But it’s deceptive. I can flip upside down and do tricks, but so many of the things people assume I can do, I can’t. 

In a twist of irony, I can do all the complicated things that require such strength. But I falter in the most basic of actions.

(There’s a metaphor there; I know it.)

The leaves blowing off the trees are dancing above the highway, creating a confetti gateway for the cars to drive through. It is a majestic sight, even though it’s a harbinger for the impending winter. There’s a metaphor there; I know it.

The frost is returning. The temperature’s dropped. I can feel something start to freeze up where it was once lush with warmth.

Everything has a heaviness to it, right now. There’s a weight on the days, the hours — a weight on my soul, and I can’t exactly put my finger on how or why it is, or if I could remove it, or if I even knew how. I feel like those leaves, caught in the wind’s dance, wondering how long until I find ground again.

There’s a heaviness to it all. But it’s okay. I’m a lot stronger than I used to be.

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