No matter how much I love summer because you can spend all day outside and increase your levels of vitamin D, I catch myself longing for autumn and winter more and more often. We have had some really warm days this summer and some lovely sultry summer nights but today it was pouring with rain – and I loved it. I think part of the reason I do is because I don’t have to feel guilty staying in my room all day without setting a foot outside. Although I did go outside today I did not feel like I had to and that feeling is great. I genuinely love being outside (I cannot wait to go camping again, but more on that later) and exploring new parts of the city and the parks, but there is just something about sitting inside in your comfiest clothing with a hot cup of tea and some lit candles. It might seem strange to be thinking about autumn and winter already – last week I walked through town with my mum in the blazing sun – but today’s rain reminded me of how much of an “indoorsy” type I am (apart from when I am camping, but again, more about that later). Not surprisingly, Christmas is my favourite time of the year. Not too long ago, my dad asked me, as a joke, whether I have already planned when we will be buying the Christmas tree. We have the tradition that we always buy it together. And he knows me too well, because of course I already know when we will be buying it. I myself am not religious but the whole atmosphere in November and December is enchanting. Decorations, fairy lights, the scent of gingerbread and cinnamon, spicy tea and biscuits, the fire dancing in the fireplace – don’t even get me started on the scent of the Christmas tree. At this moment I am thinking “Can I really write about autumn and Christmas in August?” but then I remembered, my blog is about things that elicit happiness, so wouldn’t I?
The inspiration for this particular blog post arose earlier today, when I was working on a photo album. Five years ago I went abroad for a year to study and live with a host family, and for four years I have had the intention of making a photo album of that particular time. For some reason, something always held me back and I never took the time to sort out a reasonable amount of pictures from the thousands that I took. Fair enough, over three thousand photos is a large amount but hey, I was a tourist and tourists take pictures, right? About two years back I finally went through them and selected about two hundred for my album – but still, I did not order them. Although my time abroad was amazing and I would do it again in a heartbeat if I could, there were some really rough times that I’d rather forget. Somehow, that stopped me from ordering the pictures and having to deal with them. However, as this is my “me-month” and I want to focus on doing things I like, I decided to order them and make the album. I love making photo albums, so I told myself I shouldn’t let that bad experience get to me and just do it. It did not get to me. I organised the photos, made different piles all around me and planned out which photos should go on which page. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed going through the pictures again because I know how much I learned that year, and I also know how much fun I did have. A few pictures in particular stood out to me, and those were the pictures of the time when my parents and sister came to visit me in December. The host family I stayed with did not celebrate Christmas and I was sad that I would have to miss out on all the holiday-fun. We still talk about the week they were there quite often, because we had such a good time, and looking at the photos reminded me of that even more. We unwrapped presents, cooked together, watched a black-and-white film (I am not sure whether my family remembers but I do), ate a delicious hot chocolate cake, went for walks in the crisp air, visited towns and gazed at churches, took heaps of pictures, read books, played card games, and all the while the fireplace (the only working source of heat in the cottage) was glowing with orange and yellow flames. I remember that week so vividly, and the best part about it was that I got to spend it with my family. My parents, sister and I have so much fun together and I am so thankful for that.
As a family, we also went camping often. As children my sister and I liked it, as adolescents we did not like the two-day drive involved, and now, as – I am struggling for a word here… Grown-ups? Adults? Over 21-year-olds? – we love it. At the moment, my sister is camping with a good friend of hers and I get to enjoy the pictures she sends. As the years went by, I started to appreciate our camping trips more and more. And just like Christmas, there is just something about camping that is so cosy. For some reason, sitting in front of the tent at night on an only slightly comfortable foldaway chair surrounded by mosquitoes with a plastic cup of tea in your hand is my idea of a good time. It hit me a while ago how much I really love it. It was the night when I cycled to the lake near my house and watched the sun set. When I cycled back, the temperature had decreased quite a bit and as it got darker slowly, I shivered. It reminded me of the moment when you are on a campsite and you walk to your tent after a hot shower: it is dark, your hair is wet, you make the path visible for yourself with a flashlight. You see your parents sitting in front of the tent in the light of the citrus candle (that mosquitoes should hate but don’t) and zip open the tent as you slide out of your flipflops. And then that moment when you step onto the airbed and into your sleeping bag – that is the moment I love. Your body is hot from the shower and the sleeping bag is cool and you shiver and wrap it tighter around you as you look at all the different shapes and shadows the candle light creates and you hear your parents laughing… I sometimes find it difficult to “stay in the moment” and enjoy life as it comes, but when I am camping I feel the most relaxed, inspired and just – happy.