On the first day of summer, certain members of my extended family start talking about how we’re on the downward side of light and happiness. When the morning weather forecaster mentions day length and adds, “That’s a two-minute loss from yesterday,” they picture imminent darkness, cold and ice.
It’s kind of an extreme view, I think. I’d rather enjoy the long days while we’ve got them. It’s light by 5:30 in the morning, and for someone who walks a dog in the dark for half a year, that’s a wonderful thing. I don’t want to rush that away by equating July with January.
Right now it’s light for hours and hours after I come home from work, with time for gardening or hanging out in the yard, or chasing goats. After work one day early last week I picked a basketful of vegetables for my carpooling buddy, did a little weeding, visited with a neighbor who stopped over with tractor advice, and still had time just to sit outside before it started getting dark and we had to put the animals to bed.
Of course, we didn’t get around to eating dinner until 9:30, but so what? It’s summer. There’s lots to do, and lots of time to do it in. After dinner, we made cheese while listening to the ballgame on the radio. Yes, we went to bed too late. But it’s summer.
This is one of my favorite times of year. (It’s true that most times of year are my favorite — blustery fall days, snow days, ice-skating weather, spring blossom time, torrential rain. That’s what happens when you like weather.)
Still, the end of July is special. It’s Birthday Week in my family, a time for hiking our local mountains and coming home with bags full of wild blueberries and handfuls of raspberries — and making them into Birthday Pie. It’s when the garden starts producing in earnest and we find we can sustain ourselves almost entirely on vegetables, supplemented by our own eggs and cheese from the goats. It’s when we don’t want to come indoors, even when it’s dark.
We can hear the whippoorwills and the deer in the woods, the coyotes on the ridge, the toads and bullfrogs. We can watch the sky show and the fireflies. We start planning sleepouts under the stars on Granddaddy’s land.
You can make time to enjoy these days of summer by getting outside, even for a few minutes at a time. Drink your morning coffee on the porch or from a chair you’ve pulled outside your front door. Start your day by listening to the birds. Go on a walk after work — if you have to work late, take a walk in the dark and take a moment to look at the sky.
Eat your lunch outside, and if it’s too hot, find a tree to sit under. You’ll see things you won’t see wolfing down a sandwich at your desk — birds, bugs, bunnies — and you’ll probably finish your day with more energy and awareness.
Better yet, bring your work outside for an hour or two.
Check out some of the area summer events. There are free plays and free music in parks all over the region, almost every evening. Bring a picnic and the neighbors. Go to a craft fair or go on a hike. Go to bed late.