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.

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The Road to Summer

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I love this view.

Not so much for what it shows us now but for what it represents.

I’ve never walked down this particular path but I know that there lies, under the snow, a dirt road.

And that road leads to summer.

Roads like this exist all over the North Country. In the winter, they are never plowed, no one ventures there.

But at the end of all the roads, you can still see that glimpse of what’s to come. That blue at the end of the path? That’s lake and sky . . . and the promise of summer

Come May, maybe Memorial Day, after the snow is long gone and the mud has dried out, those dirt roads will beckon under canopies of new green. That blue sky and lake at the end will draw family members back to “camp.”

I’ve never seen the specific camp at the end of this path but I have a very good idea what it looks like. Small, with a couple of added-on rooms that were probably poorly planned and done by workers lacking skill. There’s probably indoor plumbing and running water but that, too, is a recent addition.

There won’t be heat in this building because it’s never needed—the small house is used only in summer. The rooms are small and probably dark but no one spends any time inside anyway. A large screened-in porch provides a transition to outside and maybe a spot for sleeping during really hot nights.

The yard is where the action is. In the yard you’ll find picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, quite possibly a hammock. And a jumble of summer toys—kayaks, canoes, water skis. A fire pit, for sure, and a big grill for cooking.

On winter days, when it’s really quiet, I can walk past the end of this dirt road and hear the sounds of summer. The buzz of the jet skis, the hollering of kids as they splash in the lake, the calls of “how do you want your burger done?”

We don’t have a long dirt driveway at our house and our house, now, is a year-round home, with all the mod cons.

But we strive to preserve the feeling of “camp” and days when family and friends gather, the days are long and mellow, the music lifts us, the food and drink sustain us. We look to the days when our short asphalt driveway transforms into the essence of a long dirt road—that leads to summer.

An Early Summer Morning

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I’m not much of one for exercise. I know I should move more but tend not to.

When I come home from an early morning summer walk, though, I wonder why I don’t do this every day. A walk like this gives new meaning to that old song, “morning has broken, like the first morning.”

Shadows make me and my cat-who-believes-he-is- a-dog appear taller than we really are.

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We deliver maple syrup to my mother and her husband, who are already making pancakes—it is Sunday, after all. The cat opts to stay with them.

I can walk down the middle of the road if I want to, and I do, just because I can.

I see only three other people in the 3-plus miles I walk.

Our 80-something neighbor, the Energizer Bunny, out weeding her gardens and laughing at me for getting exercise in as artificial a way as taking a walk, when I, too, could be weeding.

The neighbors who make the rustic furniture, heading off to sell at the farmer’s market, where the rich folk from downstate buy expensive pieces for their summer camps.

The big guy walking his tiny dog and begging it to finish up so he can go back home for another cup of coffee.

I see a lot more animals than people.

The doe and her fawn way off at the edge of the field—I took a photo but it didn’t translate.

The bunnies who tear away from me, with their cottontails high.

The squirrels who are busy, following some imperative to mate or gather nuts or whatever squirrels do in their spare time.

I see the cardinals and the hummingbird.

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And these guys.

I hear all the other birds—the kingfisher and songbirds I can’t name. I follow the sound of tiny tapping to see the littlest woodpecker ever, getting its breakfast.

The only bird I don’t hear is the neighborhood rooster who cockle doodles his doo all day long but never, it seems, in the early morning.

The flowers, too, seem most striking early.

I know I will spend the day listening to children squeal, as they dunk themselves from a small sailboat or paddleboard. But they are, as yet, silent, still sleeping off the sugar-high hangover from one s’more too many.

Right now, the sailboats are at the moorings, the big beach towels are still dry and waiting on the line. No jet skis or deep-throated bass boats mar the quiet.

There are smells, too. The lake is low this year and, frankly, sort of whiffy. Someone mowed grass last night and the campfires still waft faint wood smoke.

The breeze is chilly this early but the sun is rising hot on my back.

Is there anything better than a quiet summer morning?

Nope, except, maybe, a summer sunset . . .

 

The Living Was Easy

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It’s summertime.

Look at those self-satisfied faces.*

They know.

Those girls know, even though the oldest is only 9, they know how lucky they are.

They are lucky to spend their summer days on a farm, a farm where they have the freedom to roam, to sit in the haymow and dream, to chew a stalk of hay.

Four cousins, together for only the summer months. They are lucky to play together with absolutely nothing to worry about except breaking a plastic flip flop or getting sticky drips of Popsicle running down an arm.

School doesn’t start again for a month. Their moms will take them to the “little beach” down the road and their bathing suits will never completely dry out all summer. Their dads will call them away from the TV in the evenings, to help corral cows that have wandered beyond the fence line.

Later they and a dad and a dog or two will make the trip for soft ice cream. The ice cream shop has not yet gotten the technology to make a twist of two flavors so the hardest decision of the day will be chocolate or vanilla.

These girls were so lucky to have this childhood. They knew it then and they are even more convinced now.

Every year, when summer arrives, the scent of new-mown hay or the taste of the first corn off the stalk transports them back to those days, and they smile those self-satisfied smiles and remember how it was summertime and the living was easy.


* I just saw this photo of my sister, my cousins, and me for the first time (that’s me on the left, then cousin Paula, sister Kathy, and cousin Jill). Paula gave it to me a couple days ago and I’m not sure I have a photo I like better! Do you have a photo that sums up your childhood? Shouldn’t you write a blog post about it?!

A couple of bloggers took me up on this!

Deb at SevenCub’s Blog

Deb at A Daily Dose of Fiber

Parting Shots of Summer

Summer wanes.

The light changes.

The TV is tuned to golf and college football (We are . . . !)

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I list vintage woolies on Etsy.

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And my thoughts turn to making chocolates.

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The garden keeps on giving.

The birds hum and the dragons fly.

Colors deepen and gleam.

IMG_3899Autumn is on its way . . .

A Blur of Summer

IMG_7471It went by in a blur, faster than the speed of camera, fueled by s’mores and ice cream. The photos aren’t good but the summer visit was!IMG_7407

Two small boys and their mother. Playgrounds and beaches and music. Long walks, badminton on the lawn, grilled food, the first local corn of the season.

Chasing cats.

Time on the water, and in it.

And quiet moments to replenish energy.