Summer as a Verb

Summer means different things to different people. If you are a kid, it means no school. If you dig the water, it means game on. If you are in Maryland, it can mean eating steamed crabs, rockfish season, river swimming, and/or lightning bugs. Maybe it means family vacations.

Winter and spring this year were fully scheduled. Events and programs at the community center; three different evening small groups at Christ Church Easton; lacrosse season and school for the girls. All great things, which drove where and when to be and what to do.

Summer right now is an opening up of the schedule. But in some ways, I can already feel this notion of chaos taking over from order, or inactivity as a response to hyperactivity. So it’s time to create fun and balance and challenge all at the same time.

Yesterday morning, I found Paul’s Letter to the Galatians staring at me:

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. (Galatians 5, 22-25)

That is a great reminder, note to self, and guide for how to approach summer, or life in general, every day.

With all that as backdrop, I like making fun “to do” lists. Here’s one for the summer months.

1. Summer reading – read three unread/unfinished books from my bookshelf. My “to be read” stacks of books grow and books I have started or wanted to read get cast off. I started yesterday by picking back up T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” White’s wild take on the King Arthur legend, an imagination-shaping story for me as a kid, a favorite book of my brother-in-law, a book I have started and not finished. I am giving myself to the end of June. Other likely contenders are James Hillman’s “A Blue Fire,” Richard Rohr’s “The Divine Dance” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions.” Every summer should have some Vonnegut.

2. Regular running – as a 5-mile run yesterday evening can attest to, I have some work to do. I let my running slide this winter/spring, and it is one of the habits that rights my body and mind.

3. Paddleboarding – at least 50 miles of summer paddleboarding. More than doable without being a stretch goal at all. I’ve just written about stand-up paddleboarding on the Shore, I live walking distance to the water, make the miles happen.

4. It’s called Natitude – go to five Washington Nationals home games (September counts). When I worked in DC, it was a habit. The girls are Nats fans and enjoy live baseball, and we haven’t caught a Nats home game the last two seasons. Time to change that.

5. Prayer – My deepest connections and most meaningful moments are when I can feel the Holy Spirit at work, when I “let go and let God” to quote a friend and small group leader. That happens more frequently when I silence and open my mind. Making time for prayer is an integral part of being guided by the Spirit.

6. Life’s a Beach – we’ve got our annual Ocean City pilgrimage on the map for July. But Assateague Island is easy. Boat and paddleboard beach exploring. Make more time beach time.

7. Go new places – I’m going to keep this broad. It could be trails, small towns, road trips, scheduled or unscripted.

8. Grow things – summer mulching has begun. I need to plant tomatoes again and regain that connection to the earth, even potted flowers and plants and the habit of watering in the mornings while drinking coffee.

9. Make a skateboarding adventure – there are a few folks who I think will be on board with this. We’ve pondered the Western Maryland Rail Trail before. I don’t know what this might become or where, but I want to recapture the feeling skaterĀ Jason Adams talks about here.

10. Live music – summer and live music are meant to go together. In June, we’ve got Josh Ritter at the Avalon Theatre and The Specials in Baltimore on the books. The Avalon has outdoor music on Harrison Street, the community center will be having Philip Dutton and the Alligators, just to name a few.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but it’s a way to shape thinking about the summer. A way to carpe the diem. John Eldredge wrote something that resonates with me: “We are created for adventure, and if we cannot find one, we start blowing things out of proportion so it feels like we have one.”

In the case of adventure, or summer, it can also be a state of mind. Be guided by the spirit, and approach these days, weeks, and months for all that they, and we can be.

Road Trips and Rabbit Holes

I am suffering from a very specific form of road trip/wanderlust envy. For years I have told anyone that asks, daughters included, “Dad, if you could have any kind of car or truck you want, what would it be?” An old Land Cruiser. And the notion I’ve had is to take road trips; do bits and pieces of the country, with epic drives, of varying lengths and distances; from quick weekend strikes; to longer meandering treks.

And then I see Theron Humphrey, whose photography goes by This Wild Idea, doing exactly that. Granted, in my mind’s eye, my Land Cruiser is blue, though I am not that picky about color.

Part of what strikes me about his Land Cruiser camping, is that I have been feeling boxed in of late, like I need to stretch my legs and change scenery. Escape for a bit to recharge.

Travel brings power and love back into your life. – Rumi

Travel far enough, you meet yourself. – David Mitchell, “Cloud Atlas”

There are road blocks for the meandering, epic road trips. Kids, work, money, time–they all matter. But the shorter ones, whether for herons or just because, are doable, and like making time for writing, running, or anything that matters, if I want to do them, I have to make time and make them happen. I have always thought of road trips as having a soulful/spiritual aspect to them, a form of pilgrimage, and it’s time to pilgrim up.

2016 Aug rabbit hole

For those of us inhabiting our time and space, there are maybe other ways to escape: rabbit holes. Many of my favorite people are daydreamers. It’s just how we are wired. Walking through town or out on a run, my mind wanders miles and years and light years farther than my body. But my short attention span kicks in, or reality calls me back. I never make it too far down the rabbit hole.

A daydream is a meal at which images are eaten. Some of us are gourmets, some gourmands, and a good many take their images precooked out of a can, absent-mindedly and with little relish. – W. H. Auden

It’s sad that Auden is right. If you are going to take the time to daydream, give it some thought. Connect to your dreams from when you were little, but dream them big. I need to let my mind wander and follow it. There is value to seeing where our daydreams lead, and where they lead us.

Road trips and rabbit holes can both lead us to the same place in the end: to a changed perspective, new thoughts, new eyes. Whether we climb a mountain, stand in a new stream, or see a new city, it is who we are and what we return to that lasts.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust

2016 aug schooner