“The harshest winter finds in us an invincible spring,” wrote philosopher Albert Camus.
I have turned to those words for quite some time when feeling overwhelmed by buffeting emotions that threaten to throw me completely off course. After the last six months or so of senseless outbursts of violence at home, a heartrending war in Ukraine, worldwide economic uncertainty and chaos, and ever-widening chasms of political and social discourse in our nation, where are the signs of an invincible spring? I have asked myself more than once.
This photograph of Eve and Gwen’s Farm Stand in Rockport, Maine, might just be one of them. It was sent to me recently by the girls’ grandfather, Jim Sady, who along with his son, the girls’ father, constructed the Farm Stand one sunny weekend. Jim says the girls are doing a brisk business because the people who pass by the stand either (most of them are on foot since the road is one of the favorite walking spots for people and dogs of all ages) are so charmed by the young proprietors and their fresh off the farm’s pure maple syrup and wildflowers that they cannot resist stopping.
When I asked how walkers manage to carry jugs of syrup and wildflowers, Jim explained, “Eve gives them a receipt and says come back in your car with your money; it will be waiting for you.” Gwen, a budding accountant, takes the money, making exact change out of the cash register she guards carefully.
I have watched both girls grow steadily from infants into the bright, creative first and third graders they have become. For years, they have joined me for Goldfish crackers and countless trips to the beach, where they are eagle-eyed sea glass collectors, far-surpassing even my avid sea-glass scavenging.
But they are incredibly generous with their treasures, often coming to me and opening their small hands to offer me a special color or shape of glass. Once Eve and her father made me an amazing mobile/dream-catcher of driftwood with wired sea glass hanging from it. It hangs on the arm of my bed’s reading light, reminding me when I feel broken or bombarded that time will smooth my rough edges and light will begin to shine through me in new and wondrous ways.
Receiving this picture as I packed for Maine this year was a timely and much-needed gift. As many of you know, I go to Maine for two months every summer, but this year I am packing with a heavy heart, not only because of senseless tragedy and chaos at home and abroad but because one of the dearest friends I have ever had, a woman in Maine named Mary, died a few weeks ago before I could get there to tell her goodbye.
Mary was fifteen years older than I am, but we had ‘clicked’ from the first time we met in 1995, and during the winters we had sustained our unique friendship through constant texts and emails. To give you an idea of how ‘savvy’ she was, she sent me a perfectly cogent text message the week before she died, and the night she died, as her loving attendant held her phone close to Mary’s ear, I said, “Our Red Sox are doing much better!” To which I heard her say faintly but firmly, “YES!”
I cannot imagine Maine without her, I was thinking, as I folded sweaters and jackets and jeans. What will it be like not to ‘pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh at gilded butterflies,’ (to quote another octogenarian, King Lear), with Mary?
Then Jim sent this bursting-with-life photograph. And my wonderful and oldest Memphis and Maine friend Alice, who introduced me to Mary all those years ago, called and invited me to have dinner at her house overlooking Penobscot Bay as soon as I arrive and get settled.
We must never lose hope, friends. The harshest winter does find in us an invincible spring, often when we least expect it.