Column: The R’s of Summer
By Icy Frantz
There’s a certain cadence to the year, a bit of an unwritten rhythm to which I have grown accustomed. In a strange way, the predictability makes me feel safe. I always know what’s coming next.
The fall is a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. It’s the commencement of the academic year for students and a new energy and vigor for those in the workforce. For moms like me, fall marks the beginning of new schedules and meetings and volunteer commitments, and sometimes it can be overwhelming before the newness breaks in and feels a little more worn.
If you have the heart for politics, November is about pounding the pavement, campaigning and engaging and voting and Monday morning quarterbacking.
January is all about resolutions and goal setting and adherence to and usually falling short of goals.
In the spring, we wait patiently (sometimes not so patiently) for the snow to melt and the crocuses to bud and the convertible tops to go down.
And, then there is summer. Ok, it’s true, I have always loved summer ever since I was a kid and school let out and shoes were thrown to the side, sand collected on the kitchen floor and the sun was out even at bedtime. I still love summer for all of those reasons and more. Summer is all about the R’s.
No matter what stage in life you are in, summer is about reducing. The big fat busy lives we lead become a little less robust. Committed time is greatly reduced. Living is lighter, from the clothing we wear to the gravity in our step. Full schedules give way to more spontaneous moments, with kids on paddleboards or company barbecues or kegs. I don’t actually remember kegs in the workplace but, according to my newly employed son, they exist. Offices of all sorts have reduced hours. Dinner plates are smaller and fresher and lighter with reduced calories, and desserts are made with local fruit, strawberries and rhubarb. And I welcome every aspect of the reduction except perhaps my 13-year old’s bikini which could stand to have a little more covering.
With the reduction of ordinarily claimed hours comes the possibility of real relaxation. This summer, I have started to meditate. I am one-week in. It’s all new to me, but I’m starting to believe that the research that proclaims the wonders of meditation just might be true. But, even without my daily, five-minute summit with Headspace, I feel more relaxed in the summer. I breathe, in through the nose out through the mouth. My shoulders feel less tense, and I relax in the warmth of the sun with plenty of sunscreen and a big, straw hat.
And, as with my new relationship with meditation, I have also been introduced to yoga this summer. There is something wonderfully refreshing about being brand new and unskilled and wobbly. Truly, I have more balance in my life than I do in The Studio with Joe P. and his regulars. Just yesterday, I was standing with feet together and arms in an overhead reach leaning to one side, when Joe P. indicated that I needed to shift my hip slightly, and that slight shift quietly released a tight muscle that was preventing me from reaching higher. Ahhhh. It makes me wonder how many other things I need to release in order to reach higher.
And while we are on the subject of reaching higher, what’s summer without my two favorite R’s? Rafa and Roger and royal Wimbledon and ripping forehand winners and spinning racquets and a record-breaking finals!
I am already a big reader, but in the summer, I step it up. This summer, our community celebrates some wonderful local authors and their books. Make sure to read Deborah Royce’s, Finding Mrs. Ford, Wendy Walker’s, The Night Before and Patricia Chadwick’s, Little Sister. I have spent time with all three of these books, reclining on the back porch with my Golden Retrievers by my side, drifting into their rich plots and sinking into the lives of the main characters. It’s a wonderful summer luxury, made better by celebrating the remarkable achievements of those in our midst.
Even though it’s summer, it’s hard to let go of habits. I am still results driven and so I tend to think about what all of these summer R’s are doing for me and our community. By recharging, I am actively getting ready for the upcoming school year, the emotional resending of a few back to college and one into the final year of middle school, the rejoining of Boards that have had the summer off and the restoring of a more eventful schedule. But, perhaps even more importantly, the R’s of summer give me the space to reorganize my thinking, and reflect on the relationships in my lives. The way we relate to one another is perhaps the most important aspect of our lives, no matter what the season.
A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of my old friend, Joe. Joe had a wonderful way of relating to people which probably accounted for the packed church. During the service, a story was told about Joe as a young boy. He had returned home from school frustrated because there was a boy that he didn’t like. His mother lovingly said, “You can’t like everyone, honey.” To which he responded, “But that’s the problem, I want to like everyone.”
I love this story because it is so Joe, and because it runs parallel to something I often tell my children when they are aggravated by a peer. “There is good in everyone. Just look for it,” I tell them.
With the rest that summer allows, we have the room to look and relook, to be more loving and accepting, to rewrite narratives that may no longer be true, to reconnect with those we have lost touch and to reject those things that may be preventing us from reaching higher.
And, the greatest reward of summer? It’s just that: summer. Being present in this wonderful time, taking it all in, rejoicing in the moment and then holding tight those memories as we head into the predictable cold, we know it’s coming, when the shoes go back on and the sun sets much earlier than it does tonight.