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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

This Summer + A Great Poem

How are you enjoying Summer?

We’ve had a wonderful whirlwind start to the season with travel and guests, more travel and more guests and lots of good times. We’ve had family in town this week visiting from Chicago and Cape Cod. Mesa’s been in total bliss-land playing with his older cousins all day long for days in a row.

It’s summer!

The past week has included running-through-the-sprinklers, roasting marshmallows in our backyard chimanea, blowing bubbles on the porch, riding the alpine slide at Snowbird again and again, fishing in the creek that runs through my parents’ ranch (that’s what the cousins are doing in the photo above), a hose-fight, 3 kids barely fitting together in a bath to warm their bones after the hose fight, popcorn and a movie (all 5 of us smooshed together on our couch, gathered around our laptop since we don’t have a tv), eating at our favorite restaurant (Takashi), barbecuing at the ranch, my first foray of the year to the downtown Farmer’s Market and more….

I’m reminded of a wonderful practice that my friend Jovanna Soligo shared with me last year, which Carl and I have been enjoying employing already this year.

It involves 3 little words to simply invite a pause, and a deeper harvesting of experience. The words?

“This is summer.”

The other night, a dear friend dropped by. It was warm and we gathered on the porch – me, Carl, Mesa and Mark. I can’t remember what exactly was going on – I think Carl was coming out of the kitchen with drinks, and I was going into the house to get a towel to wipe up bubble-liquid that was spilled all over the porch…. Carl and I passed in the living room, nearly just walking by each other, each on our own missions, but for a moment we paused and looked in each other’s eyes and I said,

“This is summer!” And Carl smiled and said “This is summer!”

And we closed our eyes and took in the warm breeze coming in the front door, the feeling of friends gathering on the porch on a warm night, still light at 9pm, the sounds of a happy 3-year old playing in the bubble-juice he’d spilled. Maybe a 10 second pause and then we were back on our missions.

I find these little pauses have big impact.

I loved it.
It took a brief pause to really take in the moment.
To let enjoying those details of a summer night be a little more in the foreground of my attention than my wish to be finishing the dishes, unpacking from our recent trip, thinking of my to-do list….

I remember so well the expansive nature of summers during childhood. Don’t you?

Long days. Playing hard outside. Mosquito bites. Popsicles. Watermelon. Swimming as often as possible. Lightning bugs. Baby frogs. (I grew up with a lake in my backyard in Illinois.)

I’m remembering a line of Mary Oliver’s where she writes something about “the summer I was ten. Could it be that there was only one summer when I was ten?”

Oh, that kind of time.
Kid time.
Summer time.

And it’s amazing how Jovanna’s little 3-word practice can help me to pause and drop in. Time seems to open as much as I open.

I love that with intention, I can harvest such satisfaction in a moment which otherwise might just go rushing by into the blur of moments…
and then it’s fall…
and then I’m 60 years old.
How’d that happen? :)

These little pauses to really take in experience touch me so deeply.  If you’d like, you can watch Jovanna’s little 3-minute video on this practice She’s sweet, isn’t she?

And of course, how about a Mary Oliver poem on summer?
She has so many it’s hard to choose…
But I think I’ll share her most oft’ quoted poem.
I think it’s apt.

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver, first appeared in House of Light, 1990 Beacon Press

(You can listen to Mary herself reading this poem here.)

As I’ve written before, I want to live in the kind of world Mary does.
Her poems awaken me to the possibility.
With such reverence of attention,
knowing “how to be idle and blessed,”
enthralled by the beauty of being alive for awhile. As she writes, “Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon?”

Wishing you a wonderful day, perhaps with a few pauses to feel “This is summer.” 

With love,

Erin

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