Summer is as much a season as a state of mind. Some of us tend to slow down because of the heat. Some of us slow down because that’s what we do. We might be following kids’ schedules or following the pace of our business plan. Sometimes we’re not vacationing or even slowing down, but there’s still a “summer mood” in the air. Suggestions for summer reading lists capture our attention and local festivals give new life to the “same-old, same-old” existence of every day. Summer is a mindset, even a lifestyle.
My own daily life switches very quickly from summertime to school-time and busy-time. As an environmental educator, my professional life follows the school year. This summer, I worked part-time and enjoyed a switch in my day-to-day. Making the transition back to full-time work, I want to find ways to remember the last of summer. Despite the temperatures, I will be in full-fall-mode. I enjoy the transitions between seasons and look forward to fall, but there are a few ways I want to savor and sip before summer slips away. Here are a few of my easy, low-cost, low-effort suggestions that may help you with your own transition to keep a little summer in your pocket.
1. Chomp on watermelon. If you’re lucky, harvest one from your garden. Otherwise, pick one up at a farm stand, farmer’s market, or the mobile farmers who bring their veggies and fruits to town in the back of a pick-up. The melons vary in size, so make sure to get the right one. Invite some neighbors over and slice into summer. Let the juices dribble down your chin. Bring out your inner child and challenge all the kids to a seed-spitting contest. Can you think of another food that invites such joy and revelry? Slurp, savor, spit.
2. Take a (meteor) shower or star shower. The Perseid meteor showers have peaked, but they’re still visible with some patience. If you missed them, there are plenty of stars. Go away from city and town lights. Camp out if you can and enjoy a night looking up. With all the hoopla of the Curiosity Rover on Mars, it’s nice to just be out in the quiet and dark pondering other horizons. Find some familiar constellations with the help of a field guide. Invent some of your own based on the shapes you see with the dot-to-dot outlines. Breathe, look, doze.
3. Sit outside on the ground or on a lawn chair. Summer sitting means relaxation. Maybe you’re camping, maybe you’re visiting with friends and family. Stretch out your legs. Notice how much you have grown in wisdom, if not in inches. Enjoy a vacation, even if it’s just in moments. Smell those summer smells. Stretch, swing, sit.
4. Eat sunshine in the form of a ripe tomato. Tomatoes, like watermelons, say summer like nothing else. Pick from the vine and chomp down. Let the juice spray in your mouth. Taste the sweet and the sour. Make salsa, make sauce. Love, chew, relish.
5. Find water. Hit the beach, dash to the lake. If it’s dry and drought-ridden where you are, fill up a small spray bottle with water. Honor that which gives us life. Swim or wade. Tilt towards the sun as the water hits your face. Spray, drink, gulp.
6. Make and drink sun tea. Find a jar and clean it. Take out the tea bags. Fill the jar with water and slowly add the tea. Tighten the lid. Leave outside for a couple of hours. Bring in the jar. Take out ice cubes to fill up glasses. Pour in the tea. The sun from the tea will melt the ice slightly. You’ll hear the cracks. That is summer escaping. Squeeze lemon. Add sugar if you must. Go out. Swig, sip, swill.
7. Keep your cool. Find some shade. Imagine winter. Slow down. Remember that sweat helps to cool us. Calm down your body. Now it’s time to cool down your mind. If politics have got you down, take a break. If politics are what you miss, engage. Find what gives your soul some shade. Find a thought or prayer that brings you back to your natural temperature. Find your solace. Provide the space for someone else to find theirs. Calm, cool, compose.
8. Find a place and time to play. For some gardening is work, for others it’s play. For some hiking is a difficult walk, for others it’s necessary to breathe. What do you need besides water, shelter, food, and love? You need play. Find your necessary play and engage in it. Run fast, squeal, scream, jump up and down. Ride your bike down a hill. Take a walk on a country road. Find something small and simple that makes you whole. Play, play, play.
9. Talk to an old friend. Summer, somehow more than other seasons, brings us to our childhoods. Renew the bonds of friendship. It’s more than hitting “like.” It’s revisiting and getting to know all over again. Bring old into the new. Invite them over, call them. Have a conversation. Laugh, listen, linger.
10. Stay up late reading a book (preferably using a flashlight). There’s beach reading the latest best seller and there’s finding an old favorite to enjoy. Visit the library, visit the bookstore, visit your own shelves. Dust off a book and breathe in the smell of paper, ink, ideas. Whether it’s a mystery, a biography, a classic, or something else, lean back and read the book. Let the words wrap around you. Let new voices into your mind. Fall asleep with thoughts blanketing you. Read, ponder, breathe.
11. Sleep outside. Camp out for days. Sleep out for a night. In the yard, in a tent, on the porch, in wilderness. Find your heartbeat. How does it feel to sleep? Are you awake? Do you feel smaller? Listen for other sounds, other creatures. You may hear the white noise of highways and other lives. Try to find the other sounds. Listen as we breathe together. Reach out in the night and let it cloak you in darkness. Find our history and future as we can in the night. Blink, nod, dream.
12. Remember what bliss feels like. What does summer mean to you? What makes you tick? What makes you different? What makes you the same? Find those things, those memories, those pieces of time, those parts of the universe that are your essence. Hang onto them in your mind. As time unfolds, as disasters occur, as life continues, as love happens, bring those memories, those ingredients all around you. Press your thumb and remember one. Pull your earlobe and remember another. Rub your temple and recall something else. Press down on your heart and remember you. Think, pray, feel, remember. This is it.