Warm sun, heavy scents of flowering bushes, freshly cut grass. Summer.
My childhood bedroom faced the east, and every morning felt like a gift. No rushing, just fun — like the whole world had to take a siesta and the pulse slowed down. There was time to explore every inch of the backyard and stage wars between potato bugs and daddy long legs. Lethargic and saturated with vitamin D, sunburns were almost a requirement because it was impossible to move out of the rays.
Ever since the summer before kindergarten, I’ve been chasing that elusive feeling of summer — a feeling defined by freedom, no responsibility, no cares except when the next ice cream truck would be coming and if I could eat the Popsicle before it melted. Needless to say, adulthood has proved very different in contrast.
I hear the comment about how lucky teachers are to have summers off, and I think I know what that person is really saying. I suspect the individual is wanting to get back the elusive feeling of “summer” — no responsibilities and no stress. He might be remembering a summer when he played video games every day. She might be reminiscing about endless days at the neighborhood pool.
So, because I am a teacher, here are my instructions for how to have “summer” like you used to have.
It’s hard at first, and you can’t do it in one day of vacation. You might need a week, but it has to be long enough to forget what day it is. Time has to be meaningless. Then start breathing. Deeply. Be comfortable hearing your own breath, your own heartbeat. Be comfortable with silence. Put your cellphone down and turn it off — or be really good at ignoring it.
Find a place that doesn’t nag at you. Maybe not your home with the laundry and loose gutters. Music is OK, but you might want to turn it off so you can really hear the world. Hear the rush of Interstate 5, the kids playing Avengers, the birds’ voices competing. Smell the neighbor’s barbecue.
I recommend being in clothes that don’t restrict and in a place where you can sit comfortably. Bring a book or something to do, but don’t bring something that feels like a deadline or a requirement. Anything of that nature is Anti-Summer. Avoid it.
Eat when you get hungry (this is harder when you have kids). Maybe feed the kids but realize that you don’t have to eat. Better yet, ask someone else to feed them. I’m not really a fan of using substances to help relax. I’d encourage you to do this process naturally. If you pray, commune with God. Just be. And breathe.
This kind of “summer” came to me when I spent a week on the east coast of Spain with my mom and her friend. The day was spent waking up late, getting stuff ready to take to the beach, staking out a small sandy section under an umbrella, eating a bite, going in the salty water when I got too hot, coming back to the condo for siesta. Then returning to the beach for a few hours. Eating dinner late, after the heat dissipated, leaking out of the world with the sun’s setting. Walking the promenade, arm-in-arm saying hello to other families. Going to bed by 11 at the earliest. And breathing and soaking it up, filling my soul.
I know that this idea seems impossible, given how busy life gets. These are rare moments, to be sure. If you can’t do “summer,” maybe do a mini-vacation. Drop your shoulders. And breathe.
You don’t have to travel; you just have to choose to change the rules for a minute. And let the peace wash over you.Casey Silbaugh of Tacoma, an educator of 15 years, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at caseyjosilbaugh@ gmail.com.