I’m not a summer fan. To me it’s hot, dirty, and frantic. Magazine covers holler at me at the checkout lines telling me I need to grill, wear a bathing suit, loll on a beach somewhere, and make special summer cocktails (okay, that one I don’t mind so much).
I used to lose my mind in the summer, going ape-shit by spending hours out on the water, drinking multiple beers, stirring up the calm lake water with machines, and burning my skin. I would completely run away from respect for the earth and my body.
Then I had children and summer meant signing up for activities, figuring out rides, and coming home to utter chaos in the house at the end of the day. When they were younger still, summer meant finding our own activities and because it’s how I was at the time, I thought making memories involved planning ahead.
As I survived summer after summer, I realized, yes, the children’s activities were important because they meant social interaction and learning new skills. But, to me, more important for all of us were the smaller things, the simple things. Searching a clover patch for four-leaf clovers, holding a dandelion under a friend’s chin to see if they like butter, feeling an earthworm wiggle on the palm of my hand.
I get this strange longing when I look at vintage pictures of lake resorts, with their canoes and covered porches and women wearing flowing dresses and wide-brimmed hats. It seems things were slower back then. Perhaps there was more lemonade and less tequila, more oars and less gasoline. I get a weird nostalgia for those times, even though I’ve never lived them.
Surviving summer requires my stepping away from perceived expectations and finding things that are personally meaningful. Because really, summer is an extraordinary time. The earth practically explodes with life, colors, and scents. Look here and there’s a butterfly landing on a leaf, look up and there are birds that only hang around this time of year. While other seasons also offer us flowers, the summer’s variety are crazy colorful and diverse in height, reach, and sprawl. The kitchen smells alive when the early basil is harvested. Water runs freely, lawns turn green under the care of the sun and rain, gardens perform magic as the seeds we planted earlier work to grow, mold, and create food.
So although my activities this summer won’t be on the cover of a magazine, my summers can be equally grand as I take the time to enjoy the earth’s gifts during this season of growth.
Here are some of them:
Read on the couch with the window open. This is best done on a day with a gentle breeze. I love looking up from a book and watching the curtains move in the wind. Add an electric fan for that soft buzz sound and the experience is complete.
Run through the sprinkler. For those of us without beach homes, running through a fan sprinkler is a sweet way to cool off and feel like we’re five again.
Draw a flower. I’ve never taken drawing lessons and drawing doesn’t come naturally to me, but I think it will be a good way to get acquainted with a flower, regardless of how the drawing turns out.
Make a bug cage. In this case, the “cage” is simply a jar with holes punched in the lid, and its use is temporary – it’s a chance to see a scary bug or huge beetle close up, and then let it go. Insects are fascinating and the more I get acquainted with them, the less freaked out I get about them.
Spread a blanket on the grass. Spending time horizontal under the sky is something I try to do more often. Finding a shady spot to spend a few minutes absorbing the earth's energy and staring up at the sky, wondering at its depth, watching the clouds. Sometimes, I’ll see the clouds in layers moving in opposite directions, which is a little mind blowing.
So let the jet skis roar, let the beer flow, let the bikini-clad set prance. I will be on my front steps examining June bugs in a jar.
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