Summer’s All Around Us

The simple pleasures of summertime that we enjoyed B.C. — Before COVID-19 — are still there: accessible, attainable, more delightful than ever.

June 2020

Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Executive Editor

This year a single month, March, became the Winter of Our Discontent. Then came our Spring of Sheltering and Shutdown. And now? Well, now we enter a world changed, by a virus.

The worldwide pandemic has shaken our understanding of normalcy. Its impact is, and will continue to be, writ large on the world stage. And on our home shores, too. It has altered our shopping, our clothing, our greetings, our politics, our workplaces, our economy, our science, our medicine. It is even altering when and where and how we interact with each other.

COVID-19 may dominate our landscape. But it does not rule the land. The land, the natural world — the earth — is governed by far more powerful forces. The book of Genesis says, “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”

Every fall the sun treks southward, cooling the land, clearing the trees and fields, ushering in barren wintertime. It always returns, though, trekking northward in the spring, warming the land, igniting growth, delivering a summertime of plenty. A plenty whose regularity does not diminish its magic.

And much of summertime’s magic is tied inextricably to the land.

Now 64, I eagerly travel through memory to summer days long ago. Days of warm rain and cool shade. Hot sandy beaches and cold popsicles. Days of serving bowls overflowing with fresh-picked tomatoes, butter beans, okra, sweet corn, squash, onions, peaches.

Days of exploring creeks and woods. Of playing hide-and-seek at twilight, the thrumming of crickets and frogs growing as the light withdrew, the blackness transforming the familiar into something both unsettling and exciting.

Summer scents imprint themselves on us for a lifetime. The murky smell of saltwater … the tang of fresh-mowed grass … the soft sweetness of lilac bushes, all stir remembrances of exciting family trips, sweaty yard chores, lazy outdoor afternoons.

Summer memories oftentimes define our first taste of freedom. Warm, bright mornings riding bikes, or roaming on foot. Sultry afternoons inside a cool, dark movie theatre, bag overflowing with popcorn, Western on the billboard screen, best friend by your side. Evenings playing board games with neighborhood buddies.

More than anything, summer memories recall a green land, a bountiful land. A bright land stretching to the horizon, filled with adventure and play. With leisure and learning. And most of all, with exhilarating freedom.

In my memory’s rich storehouse, summer was most magical late at night, in a house grown still, the only sound the steady heartbeat of the hall clock, my bedside lamp a lonely beacon. It was then that summer would usher into my bedroom whole new worlds, worlds entered through pages, the pages of books, not schoolbooks or assigned books, but books that I had chosen.

“Treasure Island.” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” “The Swiss Family Robinson.” “The Blue Man.” Hardy Boys mysteries, most memorably “The Tower Treasure” and “While the Clock Ticked.”

I especially savored books by Ray Bradbury, my favorite boyhood author. He expanded my horizons far beyond that small bedroom in novels such as “The Martian Chronicles,” “Fahrenheit 451,” “I Sing the Body Electric!” and my all-time summer favorite, “Dandelion Wine.”

As we enter another season of uncertainty, it’s worth remembering that the joys of summertime do not exist merely in memory.

They exist today, here, now. Even during a worldwide pandemic. They exist in long walks. Gardening. Lazy afternoons. Bike rides. Board games. Puzzles. Popsicles. An eyeful of night sky. An earful of night sounds. Croquet. Ping pong. Movies. Popcorn. And in books. Lots and lots of books …

So, to liberal doses of all of these, add some personal favorites, mix well and you’ll have a time-tested, guaranteed recipe for a truly magical summer of 2020.