After a year of upcoming-deadlines, lunch on-the-go, and messy roommates, the spring semester finally came to a close. Those of us who didn’t graduate either brought soft-tissues to graduation and cried for the friends who won’t be returning in the Fall or feigned fever and chose to avoid the extravagant show of sentimentality. Finally, the academic year is over, and Memorial Day marks a three-day weekend that starts a season of sun-screen, ketchup stains, and salty skin. Following the astronomical calendar, Summer doesn’t officially arrive until June twenty-first, but you know as well as me that Summer is here with her humid afternoons, 4am rain-mistings, and awaited for sun-beams.
This past weekend kicked off the upcoming season with a sense of optimism: barbeques, slip-n-slides, and red white and blue littered parades in town and on the television. The warm weather merges with free time, which merges with smiles and summer-time ambitions. Summer has become the mid-year New Years: a time of resolutions. We’ll finally try the quiche at the Rain or Shine coffee shop up the street, we’ll go to Clinton Park at sunrise to write poetry or draw, we’ll try a new fancy cheese each week. Summer flirts us into being our most adventurous, open-minded self; summer reinvents us and gives us the perfect climate to reinvent ourselves.
But even so, summer can also become a wayward magnifying glass to our own indolence and stagnancy. Has it already been a year since last year’s bug-repellent collection and bad sunburn? How is that that we’re still working the same nine to five job we find half-fulfilling and dating the same person whose kisses are mediocre and whose eating habits still confuse us? The kitchen sink still drips annoyingly and the wallpaper in the master-bedroom is till peeling in thick sheets by the armoire. Summer is often the season that reminds us that life is passing us by: a collection of fireworks we can only partially see, sand grains stuck in the living-room carpet, and pollen-dirty windows.
The excitement of summer buzzes through the air: Memorial Day and The Fourth of July still stretch ahead, marked with hope on our calendars. From here, summer is perfect, and she hasn’t even happened yet. What we forget as May leaks into June, and then July, is that she can stay this way, as long as we’re conscious early on that we have the power to make her so.
For the past two years, I have followed a list-making system that a high-school advisor recommended, and found it extremely helpful in keeping summer the mecca of ambition and relaxation we want her to be. I take out the moleskin from my backpack or purse and on two pages side-by-side I begin two separate lists. Trips & Laughs. Tasks. The trick is that “Trips & Laughs” can be as long as we need it to be, but “Tasks” must never exceed eightbullet-points.
Having arrived in the West Coast last Tuesday through the end of August, my new location has led to an impossibly long “Trips & Laughs” and warmly short “Tasks”. Lists like these will always be both person-specific/location-specific, but are great lists to pull out from our bag of tricks when the thrill of the summer begins to fade, or when Sunday mornings’ have us in the mood to clean and be tactful.
Trips & Laughs: 1) hike either Mount St. Helens or South Sister, 2) explore Mount Tabor by foot, 3) spend a Sunday morning at the local farmers market, 4) go to or host a bonfire, 5) see a movie at the local drive-in, 6) join the Nike runners club, 7) try Pilates, 8) nap in the backyard hammock, 9) learn to play racket-ball, 10) make a summer music playlist, 11) get on the local city bus going someplace new, and have dinner there, 12) explore the local college library, 13) spend a rainy-afternoon in Powell’s, 14) get a haircut, 15) perform at a poetry performance event at least once.
Summer Tasks: 1) learn how to make and hang shelves for the bedroom, 2) install screen windows in the kitchen, 3) begin researching graduate school programs, 4) clean out the toiletry cabinet, 5) paint the master bedroom walls light blue, 6) make an online dating profile, 7) ask boss for a raise.
Making a list like this can be hard when the excitement of summer is still fresh and calm in the air, but will be rewarded two months from now as the sun lays lower in the sky, and our skin is crackling dry. But for now, grab the Frisbee or the golfclubs, the tennis racket or the new swimsuit, the hiking boots or the running shoes, the garden gloves or the hose, and step foot outside, put away the computer, and let yourself be overcome by the thrill of summers arrival.