False Summer

And then came what I have come to think of as "False Summer." Once again, we were to spend our holiday in our mountain home. We left on December 27, 1992, and returned to Charleston on January 3, 1993, the new so many ways. Chetola, my former "haven of rest," taunted me at every turn, at every mountain I had climbed for what I thought surely was the last time, at every back road juncture I had thought nothing of venturing down in healthier days. My hiking boots stared down at me from the shelf of my closet, reminder that I, who had led others on the 5 mile Boone Fork Trail in times gone by, could barely ascend one flight of stairs . I dreaded the cold, which would remind me of the winter I was facing--the winter of my life.

During that week, one of the worst of my life, I was Daniel wrestling with the lion. I fought the hard fight one day and gave up the next, barely able to get out of bed. I longed for death to come soon one minute and in the next vowed to myself to fight as hard as I could for even one more day. I made deals with God, even though I don't believe in a God who deals.

But there was one surprise. The cold I had dreaded did not come. In fact, the weather was warm and beautiful, setting record highs. I didn't know if this was a punishment or gift. During these dark days came new Watermelon songs. One poem I called "False Summer."

False Summer
December 30, 1992

Today I sat
On the porch
In the mountains
Of North Carolina

Barefoot in the
Middle of winter with,
Temperature reaching 65,
I wore neither woolen socks
Nor watermelon shoes.

Today I swam,
Albeit it indoors,
And my body forgot
its pain,
'Cept for
my soul scraping bottom.

But for the bare trees,
This could almost be
The summer day
For which I've longed.
But it is false and too soon
Will slip away.

One day, when I had finally decided to take the antidepressant which had been prescribed for me, I began thinking back to another prayer of Yom Kippur which begins, "Is this my chosen fast...," I jotted this in my journal:

Is this my chosen summer?
Sitting on a porch
In the middle of winter
Sunning myself
and starring at
Smoke on the mountain
In a drug induced semi-stupor?