August 15 2018
I’ve grown to suspect that 2018 had been waiting at my life’s door for many years, patiently plotting to whoosh in, throw my home into disarray, then whoosh back out while politely offering to send a cleaning service for the mess. Looking back, I can see this for the life-stage archetype that it is – a negative experience shakes up your daily routine and allows you to shift into a better person than you were before. I’m being vague with the details because to tell the whole story would deviate from the point of this particular one, but it will come with time.
Despite its unpleasant surprises, this year has also introduced many ideas that have inspired a fresh perspective on living. One being my renewed interest in nature. More specifically, its crucial role in the health of our minds, bodies and spirits. And even more specifically, how attuning our lives to the seasonality of the earth can encourage a mindfulness that slows down the passage of time and brings more pleasure to daily life. Nowadays, we have so many conveniences that allow us to eat, work and communicate anytime, anywhere. But this also means that we’re more disconnected from seasonal living than we’ve ever been – think how different life was for our grandparents just two generations ago. Again, I’ll save the specifics of this philosophy for a later date, because I really want to get into the current season and how I’ve started integrating its unique characteristics into my life.
Late summer in Texas. Heat with a capital “H” is king of this land, and he reigns supreme. I haven’t decided if it’s my age or global warming, but one thing is certain: the Heat in Dallas is infinitely more intolerable to me now than it was when I was a kid. In fact, it wasn’t intolerable at all back then. I played outside for the majority of the day and didn’t think twice about it. Now, I strategize how to optimize movement with the least amount of bodily discomfort. Factor the other big “H” into the equation – Humidity – and you’ve got a monopoly that pervades almost every aspect of summer living.
Summertime is generally a season of optimism and enthusiasm. The days are literally at their longest and brightest, allowing us more time and energy for both adventure and work. Community is also an important aspect of summer – many are on vacation, feeling more relaxed, and the late sunsets make socializing and fostering relationships especially appealing. I’ve found that this version of summer resonates with me early in the season, but as late July rolls around and even the nights become stifling, my energy wanes and I feel more lethargic.
So I take this all into account when structuring my routine. Rather than avoiding the heat altogether, I make an effort to get outside and walk the dogs early in the morning (a few hours makes a world of difference). Otherwise, outdoor time is spent submerged in a body of water. With the long days, I find my work schedule shifts to start and end a bit later. I generally cook with a lighter touch and plan my meals to include in-season, cooling produce like tomatoes, corn, arugula and cucumber. We did a bit more traveling, especially with road trips, even if just to go a few hours east to my parents’ lakehouse. These are all small things, but when you’re aware of them, they make a difference. I’m still learning, so in the future I hope to integrate even more seasonal shifts, especially regarding mindset.
I think the key to conscious living, though, is appreciating the fleeting gifts of a season while you’re in the moment. Even a season’s disadvantages take on a novel feel when they’re viewed as temporary. In June, I made an inventory of my memories and associations with summer (which I attempted to summarize in the above photo). The Southern soundtrack of cicadas’ crescendos and diminuendos. Plucking the skeletal shells of that same insect from my backyard fort. Bluebell vanilla ice cream. The energy and exhaustion felt after spending a day in the sun. Dancing fireflies and a boy squishing one on his forehead. Homemade strawberry shortcake. The tingling blast of hot air on my skin after opening the door of an overly air-conditioned building. Cracking dirt and crispy grass. The soothing cool of aloe vera on a sunburn. My mom singing “Summertime and the living’s easy…”
It’s different for everyone, and that’s the beauty. So much of the seasonal experience will also depend on one’s location – climate, urban, rural, coastal, woods, etc. I’m curious, what makes summertime special for you?