Do you remember summer?
I don’t mean last summer, or June 21st, or even the heat. I mean do you remember Summer, the feeling inside when you open your eyes on the very first day of summer vacation, the freedom swelling in your belly as you walk out those glass double-doors on the last day of school when you knew, with a depth and fierceness unparalleled in childhood, that absolutely anything was possible and every bit of it would be magical.
Do you remember?
I don’t know if it was the summer I started working, when money and responsibility began their constant whisper, drowning out the heartbeat of wonder. I don’t know if it was in college when summer meant plowing through those subjects I had no interest in as fast, and with as little effort as possible, fully intending to commit nothing to long-term memory.
Whenever it was, it was sudden and unremarked. But time is funny in the ways it circles around again, making things new today and newer still tomorrow. I find myself this year, at the cusp of summer, not only remembering those feelings but experiencing them, as though I am once again young when anything is possible, even the things which can’t possibly be.
I know time a bit more intimately now. I’ve seen its tricks, how life fills with noise and busyness, how being an adult drones on and on without making room for magic or wonder. I’m not immune to being deflated by the mundane and commonplace. And yet, what I want is to grab these emotions of hope and expectation, to twine them around my fingers as I once twined a cat’s cradle, to feel the pulse of a summer evening as it slows and stretches to impossible lengths, each second lasting minutes and hours until it seems the sun will never set at all and the light will slant golden through leaves until the end of time.
I remember, and I don’t want to forget again. So this summer, I’m intentionally setting traps for time, to capture the magic and hold it again until it becomes a familiar friend not easily released. I’m sharing those traps with you today. If they wont work for you, maybe, at the very least, they’ll inspire you to find your own ways to recapture Summer so it’s more than just the season for air conditioning and enduring the kids. Maybe you’ll rediscover the magic hidden in those long, slow moments as the gloaming gathers.
1. Pray the Hours. In more liturgical denominations, the Office of Hours is a known practice which involves set times of reflection and prayer throughout the day. I’m observing a variation of this idea by setting my alarm at regular intervals as a reminder to stop, to smile, to look around and notice the time, to breathe, to hope. Sometimes I may pray with words, but most often I simply open my heart and mind to exactly what is happening right now, in the car, at the store, with the laundry or the dishes. Time is slippery. We must train ourselves to grab hold and notice its passing before days and weeks slip by with no recognition at all.
2. Have Play Time. Just as I don’t know when I lost the magic of summer, I also don’t know when I started believing play isn’t important. Play is crucial to our well-being, our ability to relax, our health, our creativity and our happiness. Play is also what separates us from the appliances in our house. Without it, we may as well be soulless hunks of metal useful only for cleaning and chores. My play will involve books, day dreaming, coloring, making ice cream, running around a good bit (with my GPS, like a grown-up), dancing, loud music, and writing. A good portion of my summer will involve intentionally being unproductive for the sake of enjoying myself.
3. Embrace imperfection. When we were young, our imaginations were ridiculous. Sticks became swords or light sabers, trees close together became a castle, sheets became covered wagons, tents, rafts, caves and picnic blankets. When an idea refused to work right, or imagination couldn’t bridge the gap, we changed the rules. We didn’t wait for everything to be perfect, we leapt in and hoped for the best, and it became the best. We learned from our mistakes and our games grew bigger, faster, longer, more adventurous and more exciting. Even when we got things entirely wrong we didn’t doubt ourselves, we simply moved on to the next thing, certain it could be better. I need more of this faith in my life today.
4. Write it down. In a nod to my actual age and my somewhat sketchy memory, I will be taking just a few moments each night to make a record of days. Just a few sentences, a small list, some words and images to keep the capture my memories forever. As much as I love words, I’m not a ‘dear diary’ girl, but a short list of moments is easily slipped into a night time routine or a quiet moment after dinner.
Realistically speaking, this summer we’re going to close our eyes for a moment and open them only to find the season gone and time racing ahead into the closing months of another year, but we don’t have to lose these moments altogether. Time passes whether we acknowledge it or no, but by taking notice, embracing what we cannot stop, we may just find ourselves once again possessed of the magic of youth when Summer meant possibility, freedom and hope.
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