On Winter Sunshine
After being away for a couple of months, I returned to my old home and took my place by the south window, but was surprised to find that most of my desk was now in the shade. Summer was long gone, and autumn was giving way to winter, so naturally enough the sun’s rays were now tilted from the south.
I put a chair against the window and, with my back to the sunshine, sat down to read. The sun’s glow enveloped my upper body, and instead of roasting me as it did a couple of months ago, it made me feel warm and cozy. The mother of all living things seemed to be pouring her life-prolonging, regenerating milk into my body through her golden rays.
Closing my book, I began to meditate. I wondered how my feelings could change so drastically. What I loathed yesterday had now become my love, and what I threw away yesterday was now my goal. What I hated yesterday had now become my favorite. When I looked up and noticed the fan sitting on the shelf, I was once again shocked. What I loved yesterday was now loathsome, and what I pursued yesterday was now contemptible, what I craved yesterday was now despised.
Suddenly I laughed to myself. The summer sun is awesome; the winter sun is lovable, and in autumn moon-shaped fans are all shelved – such sayings are known even to housewives, so why should I make such a fuss about change? My senses yielded, but my sensibilities refused to give in. When summer gives way to autumn, I often feel surprised by the strange feeling that steals over me. It is like nightfall – when the sun has already gone down, but the sky is not yet all dark, we can feel both day and night at once. Or, it is like boarding a ship – when you have one foot on the ship and the other is still on the shore, we can feel both land and sea simultaneously. We all know that there will be day after night and a new shore at the voyage’s end, but this knowledge is only an intuition, not a sensation. After sitting in the sun’s rays by the south window for a long while, I felt my shirt gradually soaked up by the ooze of my sweat. At that moment, the sensation of sunbathing mingled nicely with that of fanning. It was extraordinary!
Immediately I put aside my book and, lying down on a rattan chair in the corner, studied the rooms with my ‘new’ sensation. I felt that a number of things had changed, some for the better. In summer, this room seemed too cramped, even with all the doors and windows thrown wide open. At one time I had even wanted to tear down its walls! Now it seemed to have expanded considerably, and if this growth continued, it would soon have to be screened off into compartments. The thermos, which was once pushed into a corner of the cupboard by the teapot, now stood on the table like a monument. The cotton-padded quilt that once seemed so thick and cumbersome when aired in summer’s scorching heat now appeared so thin and comfortable on the bed. I once played with the idea of selling the couch. Thank goodness, no one would buy it. Also, I thought of shaving the fur coat off the black cat’s back, but now wish she would share it with me. However, some things seem to have changed for the worse. The wind, which was once most pleasant, is now unwelcome and will soon be barred at the door as we would block a thief. The bamboo cot, once in everyone’s good graces, is now out of favor. It looks so withered and listless that no one takes any interest in it. On the wall there is a poster, and in one of its corners there is a big bottle of soda water, a bubbling glass, and a beach scene adjacent. In summer the sight of the soda water would make my mouth drool and the beach scene made me dream of joining the swimmers. Now the picture simply makes me shiver with cold. The naked doll, which sits cross-legged on the bookshelf by the window and which once looked so joyful, now appears simply wretched. The plaster statuette of the Greek Goddess Venus, her bath towel sliding to her thighs, still stands high on the Jardinière. During summer days she seemed to all smiles, but now she looks so sullen and miserable. It’s as if she were lamenting the loss of her arms and her inability to pull the towel up for warmth!
But it is not the things that have changed, but rather that I was betrayed by my feelings. How could they have done this to me? The answer can be found in Nature. Her decrees are so arbitrary that in summer you cannot reject the company of the wind, and in winter you cannot deny your love for the sun. And her decrees are so odd that she orders you to extol in summer what you cursed last winter and commands you to curse in winter what you loved last summer.
Life has winters and summers as well. Childhood is like summer; adulthood like winter. Put another way, youth is like summer; old age like winter. In the winter and summer of life, Nature also brings about a reversal of feelings. As in all things, her decrees are so arbitrary – and so strange!