Gratitude Friday 6-24-22 – The Summer Solstice
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ― John Lubbock
This week was the official start of summer. The point in the annual rhythm of the planet when the days are the longest and the nights are the shortest. From now until the end of the year, night will take a little nibble out of each day until darkness reigns over light in late December. Summer Solstice according to weather.gov was at 5:14 AM EDT on Tuesday June 21st. The longest day of 2022 is in the rear-view mirror. 2023 in coming over the horizon line!
While I confess that summer is not my favorite season, each season has its moments. Fall is my time, so Summer means it is just around the corner. Recovery keeps trying to teach me to live in the here and now. Summer is what we have right now and is worthy of praise. It certainly has its glory. I should start by celebrating that I have lived my whole life in a place that has traditional seasons and not more mild or extreme climates. Places like The Caribbean and the Hudson Bay of northern Canada are places in which there are fleeting glimpses of the seasons, but they never get a firm grasp in the way each one does here in Eastern Pennsylvania.
Reflecting back, I remember the cool summer nights of my childhood with fondness. The kind of heat we typically get now was less common. In that era, as the sun set, crisp, cool air would overtake the humidity. Fireflies would begin to rise up from the ground as twilight took hold. We would catch the lightning bugs and release them as we explored our back yard. The noises of the day would be replaced by hushed unobtrusive tones. There were no subwoofers, then.
As a young person, the summer day seemed like and endless thing. Long moments spent hanging out with our family, trips to the YMCA Family Center pool, bike riding with friends or exploring the farthest reaches of the woods, rivers and parks in the place I grew up in. Some of my favorite memories of summer was during this era of my life. Those visits to the pool are something I would love to experience one more time. This is where I saw my first crayfish and learned about how water bugs use surface tension to stand on the surface of the water. Days not at the pool were spent reading books or riding bikes. The smell of summer for me is wet concrete after a summer shower. Every time I smell that smell I am transported back to the mid to late 1970s in Bethlehem Pennsylvania.
While the 1970s were certainly not an idyllic time, life did have a slower pace. News came from papers I delivered or on one of the three TV channels we had. Summer vacations were about camping. On one of the first Stauffer family forays into camping I recall that us kids were put to sleep in the tent and shortly afterwards a snake was spotted by a parent. We were rousted out of sleep to spend the rest of the night in the car. One year we went all the way to Acadia National Park in Maine, the beginning of my love of Maine and the rocky shores of the down east coast. Some of the best family memories that have stood the test of time.
Perhaps what made Summer so special in that era is that it was a time of possibility. A blank slate. Time to be spent however I wished. Often doing very little of consequence. Just sitting or exploring in the moment. Being. Summer is about laying in the grass and watching an afternoon thunderstorm slowly roll in. I can recall how as the rumble drew closer; the birds would take shelter. The wind would gather strength and flip the leaves of the tree upside down as the air chilled. This summer, I hope to make time for such moments. I have learned they really are the essence of life.
In adulthood, those days of idle were replaced by the endless deadlines and responsibilities of adulthood. There is no long hiatus in my life experience as an adult. A few times we have taken a two-week vacation, which end up highlighting why such long pauses are important in life. Technology, which has vastly improved our lives in so many ways has also led to fewer deep pauses as we have settled into the information age. Fifty years ago, information was circulated in finite burst. It is now a constant stream from every direction with little time to digest and reflect on or even avoid. Writing this stirs a yearning for a big trip, which we have not done in years. A hiatus. Long overdue and yet also so very special that we even had the opportunity in life to do such things.
I am grateful for those fond memories of childhood. I am grateful that I have had a lot of such moments in the summers of my life. It is an immutable fact that I have fewer summers in my future than I have behind me. This makes such moments even more special. I am grateful for these experiences and what they tell me about how to spend the ones I have left with the people I love. I am grateful for that. What are you grateful for today? If you have a favorite summer experience, please share it. Thank you for reading my weekly gratitude post!