Rituals of Spring, When Summer is Short

We were small. Winter was long. Summer would fly by.

We had to be ready.

The rituals of spring for my sister and I were often tied up with being ready for what came next. We wanted to rush summer!

As soon as the snow was off our driveway, we would start walking barefoot on the crushed stones, in order to toughen our feet up for going barefoot all summer. A long winter in socks and boots had made our feet soft and we’d lost the calluses. We needed to get ready!

We would wait, in the bedroom at the back of the house. Outside the window there was a thermometer. Our mother, tired of hearing us nag, had told us we could go without jackets when the temperature reached 60. We stared at the mercury, willing it to rise, so we wouldn’t miss a moment.

We spent a good deal of our summer time at the “little beach,” a pond 6 or 7 miles from our house. We knew we needed to be ready for the cold water of early summer so we took cold baths at home to prepare ourselves. We squealed and shivered in the tub, but we knew it would be worth it.

Even on cloudy days of iffy weather, we wanted to go to the little beach. My mother, tired of hearing us nag, would tell us to go away and, if we had 15 minutes of sunshine, she’d take us.

We would sit on a big stone by the road and, when the sun came out, we would start to count—one-thousand, two-thousand–as the seconds and minutes passed and the sun stayed with us. Then, when it deserted, we’d wait for it, and start again. Some days we were lucky and we’d get our 15 minutes of continuous sun and mom would drive up to take us to that little beach.

Now, I don’t know how long it has been since I’ve walked barefoot outside or gone swimming in water so cold.

But, even as adults, winter is still long and summer is short, so we get ready.

A lot of spring activity at my house now involves doing chores–get the deck furniture out, clean the glassed-in porch from a winter of using it as storage space, rake leaves off garden beds. These chores don’t feel so onerous in spring. Even as we shoulder the load, we have that sense of thrill . . . we’re getting ready for the short, intense summer ahead.

And we still rush summer–the first campfire of the season will be lit when it’s still way too chilly outside. The first trip for soft ice cream will be on a day when eating the treat gives me the shivers. We’ll buy annuals long before it’s safe to plant them outside.

We are all big now. But winter is still long. Summer will fly by.

We have to be ready.

2007 camp scenes-17

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60 thoughts on “Rituals of Spring, When Summer is Short

    • Thanks, Clay! I hope your Easter was lovely. Spring zips by here and summer seems too short, too, but we appreciate them all the more because of that, I think.

  1. It is short, especially here in the north country! We took the plastic off the windows yesterday, hoping there wouldn’t be a late spring blizzard! And the spring cleanup is beginning outside…I heard lawn mowers yesterday!

    • We’re just about at that point, too! The grass is starting to green up and the road crews are sweeping up the sand from the roads but it’s still darn chilly out!

      • I’ve enjoying walking Max without my winter coat, but I still have a sweatshirt under my jacket and gloves! 😀 I’m sure I look quite sketchy, especially to the new lady runner who is quite fashionable, even at 5:30 am!

    • Thanks, Lisa! I don’t know why but I’m not much for going barefoot anymore–maybe it’s because I have cats and don’t want to step on a hairball? But I love my sandals . . .

      • Once it gets warm enough I’m either barefoot or in sandals. Of course, that’s mostly sandals, given I can’t run around my neighborhood barefoot…

  2. Here I am early morning on the cost in Nothern California, on a little trip. It’s beautiful here and still in the low sixties, so I am happy and so enough said about my sentiments about summer. But I loved to read about yours. I caught up on your blog and oh, so much beauty to start the day with!! Those lovely woven fabrics, the embroideries, all these creative people!!! So inspiring and wonderful to look at. I already have an example of your gorgeous embroidery so I wont put my name in for anything else. I hope you will have a lovely Easter! Xo Johanna

    Ps Charley did so wanted to be in your garden with that snow and your cat so perfectly under that tree with snow ridden branches…

    • If Charley had been in my garden with the cat, would she have been able to behave herself???? How nice to be in No. California! I haven’t been out there for years so I envy you. I share a lot of your feelings about summer–one of the reasons I like living where we do is because it rarely gets really hot here–I don’t like stifling weather! Have fun on your holiday!

  3. What a wonderful, evocative story of anticipation. Loved this post! I grew up in a place where the pinnacle of summer heat was in the mid-60’s. I don’t think I ever went barefoot!

    • Good heavens–where did you grow up? Even here, in upstate New York, we have a few days in the 70s and 80s! Thanks for reading and for your very kind comment!

      • I grew up on the northwest coast of British Columbia, Canada – about 90 miles south of Ketchikan, Alaska. A damp and rainy place. Moss grew between my toes!

  4. Such a lovely post and it made me sad to think about my sister. There are no words to describe what an awful person she is and the fact that I haven’t spoken to her since 2001. Her latest trick has been a 10 year long lawsuit against my brother and I which has cost thousands of dollars. It looks like it may be over soon….
    But Summer! My younger cousin was always more like my sister. Our grandparents had a cement pool which needed to be drained and patched and repainted every Spring by my father and uncle. It was filled with spring water and we had to be in it as soon as there was water enough to swim in! OMG it was cold. Nowadays I’m a baby and our pool has to be pretty warm before I get in it. ;-D
    Part of the pool draining was the dead animal ritual. The guys would pull out the dead beasties and my cousin and I would cry over them and have a funeral. There was a particular tree we liked to bury them under….not sure where that came from!
    An amazing new bearded iris I planted last year is blooming today, as well as a snapdragon and we are eating strawberries! I am still not used to this climate….

    • I’m always sorry when I hear that so many folks seem to have troubled relationships with difficult family members–my sister is one of my top 5 favorite people in the world! I can just imagine you squealing, both from the cold water and from the dead critters!

  5. I’ve just spent an hour shoveling out our unheated porch of the recycling and other detritus that accumulates over the winter. Time in the garage busting up shipping boxes for a future trip to the transfer station. Putting away wool scarves (except one), gloves and mittens (except one pair) and throwing those porch windows open. Flannel sheets came off the bed in favor of percale. Can’t wait for summer, and trying to remember to enjoy the fleeting spring.

    • You are in almost exactly the same mode we are! We’re a little behind because we went to Boston for a few days but, yes, the porch, the garage, the lawn–it all needs work! Ah, spring!

  6. I understand your childhood eagerness for summer to arrive, but now that I’m older I wish spring would linger a bit longer. Think of how the anticipation for summer would build even more.

  7. Funny, I always thought summer lasted a long time when I was a kid. Six weeks for school summer holidays seemed like a mini lifetime – now, six weeks is nothing 😦

    • Too true! Summer seemed to stretch out in front forever when we were kids–but, all of a sudden, it was time to go back to school. And, as you say, now nothing goes faster than time . . .

  8. You know how to remind us of the simpler joys of life and I so love reading your stories of childhood! I still go barefoot whenever possible and spend as much of summer that way as I can. And why not, bare feet on the ground is a good healthy way to connect us to the earth. Spring is my favourite season, but then I grew up in a place where summer lasted for longer than any other season. Though that appears to have changed! Enjoy your preparations, I shall enjoy to read about them and your summer days as I sit by my fire 🙂

    • I’m not sure when going barefoot lost its appeal. Maybe it started the day my sister stepped in a cow pie? The fact that my cats seem cough up more hairballs than normal cats might add to that . . . But I do love sandals!

  9. Oh I can hear those squeals when you hit that cold water. As a child ,Dad would take my bother and I out to the bay to swim. The first time going out it wasn’t to bad until it hit your belly then we would quick flop in to get that cold shock over with,and come up laughing. Thanks for bringing back some delightful childhood memories!!

  10. I can wait for summer. It’s spring that I love and wish it would linger. I see plants growing, trees budding and hear bird songs I haven’the heard all winter. Even though I may be working in the yard, I’m savoring every day.

    • I agree now–spring appeals so much and it goes by so quickly. I wonder if, in general, spring is more meaningful to adults than kids? As adults we see the symbolism more . . .

  11. Just before dinner last night we all sat outside, the last of the warmth and sun beginning to dwindle. No jackets, no shoes, a glass of wine…we admired the tree buds and the hints of green grass, the small shoots of woodland plants earnestly coming forth, and felt such gladness for this gift of a warm spring day. Yes, I also remember the urgency we felt as kids for summer to hurry up and get here. We searched for our cut-offs, our bathing suits, we were desperate to be barefoot. And as young teens, we laid out on our beach towels determined to start working on our tan….never wanting to admit how chilly we really felt lying there in our bikinis with the temperature hovering just above 60. Then, all of a sudden, summer was here…..glorious, endless days of sunshine and heat. Oooh la la. Happy day to you, Kerry!

    • You made me laugh about the sun bathing! I was never into that but my sister, she of the olive skin who tanned beautifully, would start sun bathing when there was still patchy snow on the ground! We’ve had a few very fine days here (and I got a wicked sunburn in Boston, watching the Marathon!) and I’m looking forward to all the joy, and even the work, of spring.

    • Maybe I need to re-introduce my feet to grass . . . if only that tree limb hadn’t broken the light into our yard over the winter. Bits of glass everywhere . . .

  12. Such a lovely description of wonderful memories. I do love the summer heat on my feet. My daughter and I will occasionally go to a park and take off our shoes and socks to walk barefoot through the grass. I’m looking forward to the summer as this winter has been especially long and cold. Spring is wet, wet, wet, Pouring right now.

  13. Eeeh bah gum, you were an ‘ardy lot. Bare feet on gravel? Swimming in frozzen water? You must be a Yorkshire lass at bottom.

    As other commenters have noted, there’s actually something to relish about the slow pace at which fresh spring days lengthen into hotter (not hot, not here) ones. The older I get, the more I iove every season for its own particular charms. Yes, even November when the rain and wind snatch the last leaves from the trees (it’s cosy indoors), and February when winter will apparently never end (the snowdrops give the lie to that).

    • That’s me, a Yorkshire gal–and I’d love to have that accent! And I completely agree about seeing the appeal of all seasons–the cold days in front of a warm fire are as precious as the warm ones with bare feet!

    • You and Jonathan are both so kind, Denise! I love my memories of growing up in that rural setting and I love that, through blogging, I’ve found people to share the memories with!

    • I’m awfully glad to hear that others had little rituals, too. After I wrote my post, my sister texted me to comment that we strange little girls . . . 😉

  14. Lovely memories, Kerry! It is good to read that your winter has just about ended and you are doing the spring clear-up. I always had bare feet whenever possible right up to my early thirties. I even used to walk into town with bare feet when I was in my teens! I have never enjoyed swimming but because of all the camping we did I got used to freezing cold showers and baths.Summers of my youth were cooler than they are now – we thought it was very warm if the temperature got up to 70F!

    • I do think spring has finally arrived here, Clare–I see some bits of green poking up and a few crocuses, finally. Our lake water is about 37F right now–and people are already boating! But they won’t be swimming for a good long while . . .

  15. You are a delightful story-teller, painting such a vivid picture of your youthful summer days. What fun the two of you had together. I can remember pushing the envelope on going barefoot and leaving home without a jacket or sweater. I remember too, hiding from our mom so we could stay outdoors “just a bit longer”, knowing that if we went in for a sweater we were in for the night. Ah, summer. It seemed simpler in those days. I really enjoyed this piece, Kerry.

  16. You are right, Kerry. Summer is all too short! Winter was long here, and has blended into spring. We are having an extended cool, wet spring this year, with a kaleidoscope of passing storms, sun and clouds on any given day.

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