We have been fully dipped into the summer at this point, haven’t we? In certain parts of this country, the heat of the summer is full on. I’ve heard the reports from family and friends in the South about the heat indexes in the 110s. I’ve known many of those days, remember the feeling walking out your door into baking humidity, no way to escape sweating. Here on the Oregon Coast we are seeing highs in the mid 80s, sunshine, and the bluest skies you can imagine. Both are pretty indicative of summertime for their respective region. Both take you to a place year after year that means much more than just the temperature. Summer is a state of mind. We become someone a little different when we are our summertime selves. On our best summer days, we are there present with summer rituals that might reach back into childhood or adolescence. If we are there present, we are probably continuing to shape our summer selves, and there is a joy maturing and growing with it.
With this week’s group scheduling later breakfasts and there being fewer nights requiring late nights working, I motivated myself to wake up for an early morning run. I am terrible at waking up a moment earlier than absolutely necessary, but I feel great satisfaction in body and spirit when I wake up early to run. The tide was low, and the ocean was a beautiful blue. It was chilly, but the perfect kind of chilly for running. It was the early stages, people were just stirring, the gears of the day were just beginning to turn. I came home and showered. By the time I arrived at breakfast, I felt like this day and I had been conversing for quite a while, we had had a good amount of time to get to know each other.
The evening just before Allyson’s visiting family made it to the house, we took Aura to the Pirate’s Cove restaurant in Garibaldi to dine next to one of the most beautiful views of the Tillamook Bay. We sat at a long booth, Aura in her carrier on the table top. I had Italian style shrimp pasta, Allyson had breaded shrimp. We ate lots of bread. I spent a lot of time looking out the window at Bayocean Spit and Cape Meares. It’s the kind of view you remember from scenic vacations, only it is walking distance from where we live. I am so pleased to have more time for evenings like this with Allyson and my new little one. If I can enjoy good food and a beautiful place in good company, everything else seems superfluous.
Allyson’s mom, sister Laura, and our nieces Laura Grace and Lanie Drew got in just after sunset that night. This was the nieces’ first trip to the Oregon Coast. It was Laura’s first time to meet her new niece. Allyson’s mom was last out to help her brother Andrew move cross country. We were a little more settled this time. Aura was a little more grown. We broke off into sub conversation groups, catching up, showing and telling each other what was new in our worlds. These moments of initial arrival are such a time of excitement and joy. We gauge how much we’ve all grown, talk about the fatigue of the trip, acquaint everyone with the place they will be staying, bring in bags, offer drinks and bathroom breaks. There will be much to come, but for now there is this rush that comes with reunification.
For a majority of my life summer has meant summer camp, and that means many different things. One large fact of my summer self for many years has been the imbalance of work that floods me most summers. Over the years I have learned to bring it into better balance. Getting married was one of the first lessons for me in having a more balanced work/personal life during busy summers. It seems having a baby will be another one. Still, the summer at camp will periodically demand an imbalance of time despite the best efforts. This week, I expected to be much freer than the past several weeks, but it turned out I was just a little freer. It was a case of putting many things off over the course of several busy weeks, then needed to play catch up. I found myself at a level of busyness at work where, looking back for this post, I had to spend a lot of time thinking to recall memorable moments. This didn’t mean there were no moments worth remembering–it was more that I was too focused on my tasks, not present enough. These summer days are too pretty, there are too many wonderful people around me for me to lose time like this. There are days I’m good at remembering that, then there are days I dive too far into tasks to pull myself out and be truly present.
In the middle of the week, I helped train the Resource Staff on camp’s Giant Swing. This is a swing strung by cables between two very large trees. Participants are harnessed and hooked into the swing, then pulled about 35-40 feet above the ground. Then the participant releases and goes on a wild ride. I have facilitated and participated on the Giant Swing at Lakeshore many times, and I’ve trained people on Magruder’s Giant Swing 3 summers now. I had not participated in Magruder’s swing yet, though. As we went through, it became clear I would get the chance to go as a guinea pig. I fall somewhere in the middle as far as fear level on high rope elements like this go. I’m always a little nervous, but I trust the equipment. I didn’t spend much time thinking beforehand about participating. I knew I needed to do it, I know the process very well–what else was there to think about?
Anna had just tried to go on the Giant Swing. It has been challenging to her the past few summers, and she’s made it a goal to go through with it. She had just gotten to the top of the ladder, but didn’t feel like she could hook in and swing. I talked to her about how she had challenged herself and why she felt afraid, why she had put pressure on herself. I asked her if she wanted to challenge herself now by hooking me in. She said she would. We climbed together, and she was nervous, not sure she could do it, but she did. I said to her, “do you know what you just did?” She said, “I just facilitated the giant swing.” Then I realized I was about to do this thing, and I hadn’t really thought about it. The ground team pulled me up. I went higher and higher. I was high enough on the hill I could see out over the trees to the ocean. I felt the butterflies in my stomach as I yanked the rip cord. It felt like my feet left me. I dropped down, then went soaring up, then dropped again, soared again. I made a pitiful “wooooo,” sound. I was not too concerned with the show. I just wanted to take in the wind as it blew in my face, be thankful it held me, be thankful for the ride.
Our large, week-long group finished Friday morning, and it would be quiet for about 24 hours until our next group came in. I was walking next to the lake, admiring how gorgeous it looked on this sunny summer morning. I was hit with the inspiration to take everyone kayaking. Later that afternoon, the nieces and I strapped on life jackets and launched the light blue kayaks into Smith Lake. It was sunny and warm. The lake water was cool–the kind you want to dangle your feet in as you coast in your boat. We explored the lily pads near the camp wet lands trail, we paddled near the railroad levee as the Scenic Steam Train passed. We waved and everyone and they waved back.
It was time to turn ourselves over totally to the summer. Turning yourself over to it gives you sunburns. It makes rest easier at the end of those days that reach past the 9 o’clock hour. You walk through the paths with overgrown salal and blackberries bushes, your exposed legs will come out a little scraped. You’ll be more prone to climb the sides of the rock faces, traverse the boulders of the mountain spring and deal with the bruises. Our summer selves are generally more game for adventure. There’s something in the sunshine, the long days, the restlessness we’ve carried from cold winter and rainy spring. Let your summer self follow its dreams, don’t get too bogged down by what “has to be done.” Do those things, but remember what to give yourself over to. Remember what matters to you. Remember what makes you love being alive. Savor the tasty meals, look at little longer at the beautiful views, stay up a little later with your good company. This is what we do in the summer. That is, if we’ve got our stuff together.