My calendar and the weather man tell me that today is the first official day of summer. It sure feels like it here in Chicago, where temperatures are expected to reach 92 F (33 C) again today, and the local weather channel reports that this is the warmest June in 25 years. We have had only one decent rainfall in six weeks. All over the city, the grass is already the color of straw unless it’s been watered.
The first day of summer has me thinking about my summer list. Faithful readers of this blog know that I like to put together a list for each season to make sure I actually savor it, and that it all began with that consistent American question of “Are you having a nice summer?” See my old post on having a summer.
Usually I make a fun list of things to do, like going sledding in the winter (wasn’t possible this winter due to no snow!) or apple picking in the fall. But I am finding that what I am really craving this summer are empty days. Empty like those lawn chairs in the picture above, which, incidentally, I took last week when the kids and I went to Deep River Waterpark. The public schools were still in session, and thus the park was rather empty, and my kids had their pick of water slides.
And that’s what I want for my summer: emptiness. Days I can while away. Perhaps sit in my own lounge chair on my porch and page through a stack of magazines. Or fiddle with my pictures on my laptop all day. Not go anywhere, not have an appointment, or an event to attend.
This, you must understand, is a tall order. I’ve long realized that with three jobs and a family of five, life is, by definition, busy. As the kids get older and their lives expand, it gets even busier. This summer life has gotten more complicated as all three kids are attending different camps and different summer schools, none of which run congruently or are in the same place. Lots of schlepping and packing and unpacking is involved.
But still, I’ve scaled back one of my teaching jobs for the next few weeks, and I intend to keep my own schedule as empty as possible by saying no to offers to go to concerts or plays or the movies. I might even hide my copies of Time Out Chicago when they arrive so I don’t feel pulled into all those different directions by all the busy-ness in the city. I might do some of those mundane summer things that are on my old summer list, which is still tacked to the fridge, such as going to the farmers’ market (I started going every Thursday as there’s one on my way to work) or laying down in the grass and looking up at the sky. But the beauty of those summer things is that they don’t need to be planned, and they imply a sense of slowing down and savoring the moment.