The Summer that Wasn't

By Will Baker

 

It is a beautifully sunny, summer day here in the Green Mountain State. And this has been a rarity this year. This has been one of the wettest summers that Vermont has experienced since such records have been kept. Yes, our normal summer recreational pursuits are on hold. However at least I was fortunate to have made it into the woods on a couple of occasions for hikes and such.

Under the circumstances it is very easy to feel as if this summer season has been lacking, that it has simply failed to live up to our expectations. For instance, I can remember standing in my door-yard last March, watching the snow swirl and looking forward to the sun, sailing, swimming and hiking. It was almost as if I was taking the expectation of these things for granted, yet for the most part they failed to materialize.

And this fact has made folks grumpy. As far as conversation is concerned, the weather is always an old stand-by. But with a string of rainy weekends under our belts, talk lately, quickly turns to the weather--even when there really is something more important to talk about. Vermonters might be feeling a bit "ripped-off" this year. After all, we must contend with long, cold, dark snowy winters. And for many of us, as winter progresses, we use thoughts of springtime and the promise of summer to keep going.

However, I suspect that there is at least one other way to look at this situation. There is bright sunshine outside my office window now. I could shake my fist at it, and say that it is not fair that such a glorious day should present itself when I am trapped behind my desk. If I choose this course I might very well find myself hoping for it to cloud over and rain some more, since I can’t get out to play in it. Or, I can be thankful for the sunlight, as it streams in my window, and gladdens my heart. Of course I still wish that I could go out and play! But such is life. No, nothing is fair.

I was recently discussing this fact with a friend over drinks. My friend’s mother is scared to death of the mosquito borne West Nile Virus. Evidently, the woman is so fearful that she refuses to risk death by leaving her house. She is a prisoner, not only of these mosquitoes, but also of her fears. But it seems to me that we are all prisoners of our fears to some degree-I am afraid that it might rain again this weekend. So I am reluctant to make plans. But in the back of my mind I still know that "when one door closes, another one opens," even absent fairness.

And last night as I sat outside, alone in the moonlight, I recalled my friend’s words about fairness, or more properly, as it relates to life: the lack thereof. I had just swatted a mosquito that had made a snack out of the blood coursing through me. I looked at the remains of the mosquito’s body, pasted to my arm and intermingled with my own blood. "Will I die of the virus?" I mused. And if I did…would it be fair?

No, it seems to me that nothing is fair in this life, nor can it be. For, as it relates to our lives, notions of fairness and justice would imply that there is some method to this madness, perhaps some grand scheme that we simply can not perceive. But after one spends a fair amount of time going about the business of life, it becomes self-evident, that there probably is no Master Plan. For if there were, then based upon the evidence that I see all about me, it would contain elements of tragedy and heart ache for some good folks, and bountiful blessings for others who demonstrate qualities that are not so noble. And how could that be…what kind of a plan is that?

No, nothing is fair, the rain and the mosquitoes, none of it. But do you want to know something? I’m glad that this is so. For it seems to me that we would all be diminished somewhat by any arrangement other than the one, which we currently enjoy. For with all of its random cruelty and surprising acts of kindness, at least it is ours, contrived by us, entirely of our own making. And were our lives to be preordained exercises in perfectly ordered fairness, it seems to me that our very lives would seem less than they are now.

 

 (Essay Collection)