This has been a quiet week in my neighborhood. Families must be gone, celebrating the Fourth at the beach, or a lake, or maybe somewhere far away. It continues to feel like a season of waiting, as I wrote about in my post two weeks ago Season of Waiting. I have no travel plans, no big events, no changes in my schedule to mark the expanse of time in front of me. When I find myself feeling restless, it’s usually because there’s an uncertainty about the unknowns of the future.
The thing I come to is the only time I really have is the present. I lose the present when I’m ruminating about the past or anxious about the future. Focusing on now, the mid-point in the year and the beginning of summer, I feel grounded when I remember things I loved about summer when I was a girl.
Summers were the highly anticipated time of being free from school. They provided a break from catching the bus early in the morning and sitting through sometimes interesting and often boring instructions from ‘old maid’ school teachers. At first the farm chores of weeding and harvesting fruits and vegetables were a great break from being in class all day. But as the summer progressed in the South, the searing heat and the suffocating humidity made me yearn for the cooler days of fall.
What I loved in summer were simple things that are timeless. I don’t have to be back in the sixties of my childhood to enjoy them.
Early mornings and late evenings were my favorite times of day. We were up by sunrise to work in tobacco once the crop came in– usually around the third week of July. I loved the feeling of expectation with a new day. I talked about what this was like in my post Tobacco Barn Morning.
Now those times are in the past, but I still find I love the summer mornings. Walking during those early hours, I can focus on birdsong and watch for new flowers, sighting the first crape myrtles to break forth in white, pink, or red blooms.
With the heat building until the early evening, I walk at twilight and often discover rabbits venturing out and then the moon making its appearance to the serenade of cicadas and crickets. As a child, evenings were filled with catching fireflies and putting them in Mason jars with holes poked in the lids. We loved games of kick-the-can with neighbor kids, playing outside until our mothers forced us in.
Now, the rhythm of the day is reassuring to me– something that never changes no matter my age or my situation. Being in nature and focusing on what I encounter is a sure way for me to be in the present.
Another thing I treasured during the summer were thunderstorms. When we were working alongside Daddy, he spotted the storm over the distant field and would say, “Don’t you see it?” I came to recognize the metallic smell of rain that blew in with the cooler air that ushered in the shower.
We had a wide porch across the front of our farmhouse and I loved to sit in the swing and watch the storm and listen to the ping against the tin roof. Now, I sit in my wicker chair on my narrow front porch and watch the rain and smell the air being washed. I savor those memories from childhood and the present moments of rest watching it unfold.
On my first ‘intentional’ journey to Jekyll Island, Georgia that’s described in my memoir in Chapter 4, “Child’s Play,” I sat through a thunderstorm on the porch of the Vanderbilt cottage. How I loved reading my new book and watching the rain. When I was a girl, the storms brought us in for a break from the heat and the farm chores and gave us time to rest.
Summer was also a time for eating some of my favorite foods like fresh corn and watermelons from our garden. My favorite summer food was homemade ice cream. Back in those days, we used a wooden, hand-crank ice cream maker. It included a metal cylinder filled with the milk-based custard placed on the inside and ice sprinkled with rock salt was packed between the cylinder and the wooden sides. I remember a large family gathering at Grandma Smith’s when the uncles took turns at the crank that turned the cylinder round-and-round until it hardened or froze into ice cream.
Now, I don’t have the patience for that and it would be too tempting to have an electric ice cream maker that can produce it in minutes. But I do enjoy a cone of butter pecan from Yarborough’s in my hometown. I savor every lick of that cone because I only allow myself to have that treat on occasions. It’s one food you have to eat slowly because you can’t be rushed and enjoy that cold sweetness.
It’s these ‘ordinary’ things that make these ordinary days special. Staying in each of these summertime moments helps me to Be Still. Eventually, we will be through this season, and it will be time to return to school or to life that’s more scheduled than leisurely.
So for now, we just need to sit in the moments– and if we can, eat a cone of ice cream!
How About You?
During these days are you in a season of waiting?
What summer moments help you to be still and rest in the present?
My memoir, He Heard My Voice, is available in paperback and Ebook on Amazon: