In my part of the world, the weather is not a pressing issue. At least it was not when I was growing up. In those days, the season was either rainy or dry. Sometimes, we got the harmattan, the African version of winter. Then it got quite windy and the temperature dropped to about 70 degrees (yes, that’s a drop for us!). The dry wind made one’s skin ashy and flaky and the lips hurt from minor breaks, but a single swiping of the tongue across the lips was like a soothing balm. We have known years when the harmattan was mild or non-existent. If only I’d known the real meaning of winter… I would have soaked up the little sunshine the harmattan had to offer, instead of complaining over the “cold” back home.
Here in America, everything revolves around the weather. We talk about it more than we do national issues. Knowing or forecasting what Mother Nature has in stock is so important that people actually make millions of dollars being “the weather man”. Where the Rainmaker in my village is poor and dirty, the weatherman in America is a wealthy son of a witch. Every now and then I believe the American weatherman’s forecast of sunny blue skies, only to return home shivering like a wet bat. Someone is getting paid to mislead me into wearing a T-shirt instead of a bomber jacket. But I digress.
America is a society that is built around the seasons. Everything here changes with the mood of the weather. The designers of clothes switch their styles and adverts. Sports, food, even the people’s attitude change. Africans, on the other hand, (or even the African-Americans) breathe a sigh of relief when summer finally comes. No matter how we try, we just can’t fall in love with the wicked winter like our white friends. It does all kinds of things to our psyche.
I first ventured out of Nigeria to England in November 1994. A day after my arrival, at about 3p.m., I looked outside the window from my tiny hole… A thick cloud was hovering like a giant vulture looking at me like a predator. It was like a black piece of wool hanging on God’s string to prevent the sun from shining. I thought it was going to rain. I was wrong. It was twilight already… Twilight at 3p.m.
That was the beginning of my loneliness and homesickness. I never liked London after that day. Not even when summer came. The weather betrayed me; the thick clouds feasted on my lonely heart like vultures feeding on a carcass.
Winter is the worst racist of all. That is the time of year when you most think of Africa as home because the cold wind is always whispering in your frozen black ears, “Go home black man. You do not belong here. Go home to where the sun never sets”. Then you begin to question yourself, blaming the situation that brought you to America. Winter is not kind to the African face in anyway. It decimates and makes the lips look like cornrows of sore. Sorry, but you cannot lick your lips with your tongue because you are shivering and the tongue is continuously missing its target. It is a fruitless exercise when you finally lick your lips because the wind now has a level ground to break you open.
It does not matter how many sweaters or jackets we wear, it is never enough. I feel sorry for the grandmothers who come from Africa during winter to visit their children in America. Whenever they dare the weather to venture out, it’s always a site to behold. Have you ever seen an African granny wearing long socks with buba and wrapper? They look like sculptures by Sokari Douglas Camp.
While the average American takes time off work mostly in the summer months to go on vacation, their African counterparts call off (if they can) during winter. Winter is when we long most for home. Thank God, Christmas is in winter. While my white friends pray for a white Christmas, I am praying for the money to buy the flight ticket to Lagos during the winter months. The only time I fall in love with the snow is when I want to take pictures to send to my ignorant folks at home. They think it cool to see me standing in thick wool, surrounded by snowflakes. If only I could tell them that my feet were turning blue and my knuckles were growing needles and pins. If only they knew my eyes were like those of a smoked rabbit. If only they could be informed that taking pictures in the cold is equivalent to having one foot in the grave and the other foot on a banana peel. I don’t like cold, but I guess I have to deal with it.
Then comes spring. That is my favorite season. It is what I have come to call the SEASON OF HOPE. I love the positive emotions that come with spring. I love the life that spring forth with spring… Even the breeze is gentle, not harsh, and the sunshine is not too hot… Just perfect.
The weather is flirting with my skin
And my broken lips are healing
I am rejuvenating
Life is abound, the dead are rising
The browns are becoming green
Easter is here, Christ died and He arose
Even the dead thorns are sprouting on the rose
I am hanging the dead colors of my jacket
My lemon green sweater comes off the rack
I see my neighbor planting
I see my bulbs sprouting
My heart is forgiving
My hands are giving
Lovers and liars are holding hands out on the sidewalk
Dogs and owners are taking a leisurely walk
The trees are living again
The bushes are receiving gentle rain
Life abounds…hope is abundant
I am off to cherry blossom while it is still around.
This is the time for us to search our closets and remove all unwanted stuff to sell or give to charity. They call it “spring cleaning” around here. It is time for us to search inside our hearts and check out all foreign content. What burdens have you been carrying all winter? What anger has taken control of your life? What is broken in your life that needs fixing? Spring is the time to clean up all the garbage.
If you think all around you is decay and disillusion, think again and look outdoors. You will see that the tree in front of your apartment or house that seemed dead all winter is springing to life again. Those beautiful birds that temporarily disappeared in the wintertime are coming back with better songs. Life is plentiful in your surrounding. Wipe away the gloom that is enveloping your life like the London fog that brings twilight at 3p.m.
Think of forgiveness and you will be forgiven. Springtime is when you reach deep into the innermost part of your closet and root out the extra luggage. Apply that philosophy to your life as well. Reach deep inside your soul and remove all the yama-yama that has hindered your joy. Pick up the phone and call an old friend or a family member you have not spoken to in months or years. Be giddy and be happy. Soak in the new sunlight, soak in the new hope…don’t let this spring pass you by. And please while you are it, do not forget to pray, because when you clasp your palms together in prayer – it is spring. But when you crack them open to receive your blessings…? Ah, it is summer bloom! Be well!