His soul followed the sun. Every spring, with days longer and brighter, life crept into his bones. With summer, he welcomed the ruggedness he felt, the hope, the way his gaze always returned West, remembering. But every winter, as the cold and the dark swallowed more and more of the shining light, Thaddeus felt a grayness settle over him. Each season of his soul brought him a different kind of gift, but he hadn’t always seen it this way.
When he was young and ambitious, Thad fought the gray. Spring and summer were no trouble, of course, but gray doesn’t help a fellow get along with any of the things enterprising people are supposed to get along with. Gray, so far as I know, never gets a mention as a career builder. Not one of his Ph.D. supervisors ever added, “Thad does gray really well,” on his recommendation letters. A few girls liked the brooding type for a bit, but they eventually they would find an excuse to move along.
Of course, you can only push something down so long. During winter break of his first year teaching, Thaddeus surrendered and allowed the gray to run wild. The episode concluded with Thad halfway across the country, huddled in an icy corner of an abandoned gas station 50 miles east of El Paso with 2 gallons of stolen Mexican moonshine in his backpack and a weathered copy of Letters to a Young Poet in his pocket. Thad learned a few things during that jag.
On December 24th, Thad stood by the empty road in front of that wasted shelter, with a couple frozen shrub bushes as company. Thad had never been in a more desolate place. And yet he had survived. Thad had met the gray full-on, and he was still standing. Limping, but standing. Inside the station, you could see the scribble on the wall next to a shattered windows: Thad was here – all of him.
Thaddeus took a deep swig of moonshine, stuck his thumb out and smiled.