I left the island as a young adult, but the island has not left me. I still live for summer, even after many landlocked summers, or depressing northern European summers, or insanely long Southern summers.
In northern France, where I spent 12 pseudo-summers, one waits patiently for the one rainless day warm enough to go to the beach (I have been known to go in jacket and jeans anyway, just because). When that day comes, life stops. Everyone goes to the beach. And it is understood as a survival mechanism, not moral deficiency, irresponsibility or playing hooky.
I mourned the short summer dresses and tank tops languishing in drawers for years. I missed going barefoot, sweating, and staying up late during nights too hot to sleep in, watching reruns on late-night TV, discovering Johnny Carson, and slapping mosquitoes.
Then I traded in drippy northern France summers for “Hotlanna” and was pleased to discover my first dose of Southern hospitality: for one whole year it did not rain. Not a drop. Nothing but pure, unadulterated sunshine. Can you fathom the depths of my gratitude, you who have not lived in northern Europe, the United Kingdom or Ireland? I had come to the Promised Land.
With deep sensitivity to the ecological disaster this was, I soaked up every ray, making up for all those 12 years in France, reliving my childhood. I wondered where the nearest beach was , and how many hours I’d need to drive. I twitched a bit when it did finally rain, which indicated a less-than-complete recovery, but I have at least adjusted to the fact that rain one day does not mean rain for 12, 16 or 24 weeks.
We had the first white Christmas in over 100 years here—a dusting of a couple of inches—while up north, friends weathered a blizzard leaving four feet of snow in its wake, followed by one leaving two more feet.
But I am far, far away, south of Hotlanna, writing on my laptop from a very comfortable L-shaped sofa, feet up, coffee to the left, candle flickering to the right. We are nowhere near summer; in the dead of winter, barely recovered from holiday hangover, we hunkered down after an historic ice storm, and had an official ‘snow day’ if you can believe that.
But today I could take that cup of coffee out on the terrace and watch the sunset. In my shirtsleeves. Jan. 16. YES!!!
I am weirdly torn between nostalgia for those impossible deep snow dumps, stopping life for hot chocolate, a roaring fire and a blanket on the couch, and incredibly relieved to be here. My inner beach bum longs for the ocean, but will settle for 60 degrees in January.
I am far from my roots. But my roots are never far from me.