Summer is coming. There is probably no traveling outside our nation. A lot of events have been canceled, again. And if we actually do travel and go out, there is physical distancing and mask wearing; even sitting at a table in a restaurant feels somewhat new and strange. And still, we can enjoy summer so much if we only see it for what it really is. Because it has been creeping up on us furtively as always, and we take it for granted.
But do you remember the first day of real summer here in the Pacific Northwest? When it became hot enough all of a sudden that even shedding layers of clothing didn’t help much in feeling cooler? When, maybe, we walked barefoot around the house? And the squirrels and birds came out only after the sun began sinking behind the trees, panting little fluff-balls heading for the bird baths to drink?
Somehow, I’m feeling quite nostalgic these days. Because summer reminds me so much of my childhood days. My family wasn’t traveling much back then; certainly not outside the country. But we packed a rucksack or two, put a big blanket into our car trunk, and then went to some idyllic spot in nature to hike and picnic. I remember the parched feeling in my throat when we walked dusty country roads. The grass, all bristly, crackled under our feet. The skin sticky, the eyes squinting into the brightness of noon.
Summer is a physical sensation, indeed. Take in all the fragrances of the plants in your garden. Or during a walk on a beach or in the rain forest. The cool air smells different from the hot. Try and catch the reason why. Coming back home, you might catch a whiff of barbecue from a neighboring garden. It might inspire your own cooking.
I usually have some watermelon in the fridge. It’s one of my favorite fruits – so refreshing. Or some popsicles in the freezer. My mother used to make these herself for us kids, pouring juice into molds and freezing it. Oh, the anticipation until we were able to pull the frozen stuff and enjoy it, the stickiness on our little fingers, the hot air licking the ice as much as our tongues.
Sunrise and sunset are accompanied by bird concerts. It wakes you in the morning, the lilting melodies, the piping, the calling, the crowing, the tittering. Watch all the colors that whirr through the air, the blues of Stellar’s jays and California scrub jays, the reds and grays of house finches, the dotted chests of thrushes, the yellows of goldfinches and varied thrushes, the red chests of robins – a rainbow for your eyes just to enjoy.
As you are harvesting your garden, your skin feels the different textures of veggies and flowers. The soil stains your hands, its rich, bitter smell turning sweet as soon as you water it. The wooden banister of your porch or your balcony feels rough and warm under your fingertips. Remember how many times as a kid your mother would pull splinters from your hands?
Somebody is mowing the lawn in the neighborhood, and the air fills with the fragrance of freshly cut grass. Some dogs are frolicking and barking in one yard; there is children’s laughter from another one. Your glass of iced tea is dripping on the outside with condensation. Let’s eat outside tonight. Or at least keep the door open to get a draft through the standing, stifling air in the house.
Summer. It is what we make of it. Because it is there for the taking. We only have to grab it and enjoy it with all our senses. Even though cruises and flights and concerts may be cancelled, summer is not. It’s right in our backyards to enjoy.