Most consider summer a season with a slower pace. After a busy spring, we catch our collective breath. We look back and evaluate. We revise and regroup. Family vacations often occur during the summer months. A job change may cause a summer move.
Every season has its own surprises, however, and summer in London this year was no different. More dry days than usual, more days that were sunny, more warm ones. I found an old restaurant replaced by a new one, and a familiar café had been given a new décor.
What is true of the seasons of the year is also true for the seasons of our lives. The rapid growth of childhood and adolescence and the independence and responsibility of the young adult yield to wisdom and perspective in later years (often a surprise to the young).
Relationships may follow the same pattern, the usual marked by something, internal or external, that shakes us up and causes a reaction we didn’t expect, so that we see someone, perhaps even ourselves, in a new way.
Novelists find a similar dynamic at work in their books. It is a common misperception that authors are in control of what they write, that they know what they’re going to communicate before they do it. If, however, an author is able to give life to the words that appear on the page, then the author as well as the reader experiences surprise. Characters change and grow. They take actions or have reactions that weren’t anticipated at the beginning. Changes to the plot are required, and the story takes on a life of its own.
The first time this occurs an author may be a little unnerved, but apprehension leads to excitement when the pattern repeats itself. Authors then realize a humbling truth: They have set a work in progress but may not be completely responsible for its final shape.
Summer in London 2013: I adapted to new conditions. I left my jackets in the closet and my umbrella in the suitcase. I traversed the cool, shaded paths on Hampstead Heath instead of the warmer, sunlit ones. I welcomed ice in my Diet Coke instead of ordering hot tea, consumed salads instead of hot soup. I celebrated the intense blue backdrop of all the historic and non-historic structures I saw.
I have made a summer resolution: to be flexible and, if necessary, resilient when surprises come. To welcome what is unexpected, to be glad that I am still capable of experiencing surprise. Celebrate!