“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.” –Ranier Maria Rilke
If you’re like me and take the weather and seasons personally, then these late summer months are interesting times. Like Rilke says, there is a certain terror/beauty about the summer ending, going back to school or work, preparing for potential polar vortexes, etc. It’s also the end of a particular way for us to be ourselves, which is contingent upon the summer. I can’t eat outside with friends, go to festivals or be lazy on the beach in the same way anymore. We can’t be ourselves in exactly the same way in the fall or even next summer, and the more nature starts to die a little in the fall, so do we. This may sound a little grim, but I think that this is where Rilke’s quote starts to speak to me.
There is beauty and joy in the ending of things for exactly the same reason why there is sadness in it; because the seasons end and we can’t get them back. And in many ways, the ending of summer moves us to fill it with so much celebration in the first place. We wouldn’t enjoy the summer in the same way if it lasted forever.
I try to remind myself of this as we move into fall and winter as I, along with many others, start to feel pretty down the colder it gets. However, a large part of the sadness of winter comes when we start the countdown for spring. This takes us farther away from where we are and then we start to feel depressed because we’re living five months in the future.
So should I just embrace the polar vortex when it comes? In a way, it is the terror that disdains to annihilate us, which also makes the summer so beautiful. I certainly didn’t like the last one, and I probably won’t like another one. But, on the other side, what happens if I spend those months saying, “Oh if it were only summer,” when it isn’t? Even aside from the weather, this could happen with school or work and we’d miss out on so much. And I think it would diminish the greatness of the summer when it does eventually come around.
Written by Kevin Sprenkle, M.A.