Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Essence of Summer

Once again, I'm moving my Saturday "new experience" post to Wednesday because I'm too busy to do two posts a week. Wait, did you read wrong? Isn't that supposed to say "too lazy?" Oh... no... it says too busy... because I DO THINGS WITH MY LIFE NOW.

Anyway. Last week I had a bunch of new experiences, and in the middle of one of them, I began thinking about summer. Some of you probably know that I'm slightly obsessed with the different seasons. During this school year, I wrote a short poetry collection entitled "Three Seasons in the Woods," where I researched and wrote poetry about the changes a stretch of woods on my campus underwent during autumn, winter, and spring. You'll notice that summer is missing from that list. That's partly because I wrote the poetry during the school year, not the summer. But it's also because for a long time, I have had a disconnect with summer.

I was born in the summer. When I was little, summer was my favorite season. Not hard to imagine why- you get out of school, it's warm, you can do whatever you want, etc. As I grew up, however, summer and I grew apart. The winter was quiet and cold, like me. Spring whispered with hope, and fall made the world look like a work of art. But summer had nothing for me. It was hot and overly bright, shining with the beautiful intensity that felt like it had disappeared from my mind. I wrote in one of my journals, "I hate that feeling like summer is a dazzling tiger storm and I'm just rotting, sweating, melting into its linoleum kitchen floor."

Summer was dark, for me. It was the shadows under your eyes when you've stayed up late. It was the grey of interiors when you're inside and the world is outside. It was the aching loneliness of summer midnights after days of doing nothing. Summer was the hole in the year, where I crawled into every bad thing I could dream up, whereas school was when I really lived.

This summer was different. I made a lot of changes in my life. So this summer has been filled with new experiences. And during them, I tried to do what I do every season: listen and look and try to figure things out. I tried to discover the secret of summer. Not the high school summers that lived in the broken glass and shadows in my mind, but the summer that pulsed and shone all around me. I wanted to know what summer symbolizes to me, what it is when you strip away the things that aren't quite summer, what the essence of summer is.

I read a Tumblr post about summer that I really liked, by Tumblr user trembling-star. It reads:
"There are two types of summer; white and dark.
White summers are those full of lawn and linen, the sea and soft sunshine, cherries and children’s smiles, in which you feel disconnected and light, almost floating, dreamy and distant in a haze of white dandelion fluff. You don’t ever want to land.
Dark summers are honeyed and sulky, full of pomegranates, thunderstorms, magnolias and un-kept promises. Cinematic and shadowy, you exist in a trance of melancholy, and feel passionately, though feign detachment. Pandora opens the box, and lightening [sic] fills the sky."

As I experienced new things this summer, I would try to categorize them as one of those two. But repeatedly I would realize that they didn't really fit into either category. There was shining summer, and desperate summer, and ocean summer, and green summer. And before I knew it I was making lists of summers in my head that I could not keep track of. Finally I came to my conclusion: the essence of summer is infinite.

Summer is every experience you have that makes you remember that you are alive, really alive, with a constantly moving heart and lightning-fast nerves and an imagination that stretches until it hits the barriers of nothing and everything. Summer is the street musician that tells you to drum your own song while the wind rushes past. Summer is the bookstore you go into that seems to open new rooms crammed with books every time you turn a corner. Summer is a teashop that serves you crepes by the window where the morning light is coming in. Summer is briny ocean waves rushing at you like mountains only to recede into foam before the saltwater can hit your eye, and summer is the ocean water that comes at you and knocks you over and fills your clothes with sand. Summer is crowds and music and fried food on the boardwalk. Summer is when you can't see the sea anymore because the night has made it the same color as the sky. Summer is the long streets of the city illuminated by shifting sunlight under green leaves and brick row houses. Summer is a perfect meal shared with friends and laughter in a tiny restaurant you might never see again but you can see every passerby rushing past the window. Summer is going out into your backyard to lie in the green grass that you forget was so soft because you hadn't lain in it for so long, and watching sparrows make their way in and out of the tiny forest. Summer is the silhouette of the New York City skyline in the far distance when you hear a song that makes a long-ago memory flash vividly into your mind. Summer is dancing barefoot and breathlessly in a park in a tiny Massachusetts town while the band plays the score to a musical you've never seen. Summer is swimming in a secluded lake. Summer is the marble halls of museums that stream the sun in through skylights. Summer is dreams that turn into poems the next day.

Summer is life. It feels grating and emptying when you feel dead inside. But when you feel alive, it is awakening. It's the complement of winter, where you dream. Summer is the dream awake.

(I don't expect you to read that giant paragraph by the way. Don't force yourself on my behalf.)

If you have any pure summer experiences to share, please do so in the comments! If you super-hate summer because of the heat and humidity, just think of it as a metaphor instead.

Anyway... my new experiences this week were going to Montclair for a day with my best friend and going to Ocean City with two of my online writing friends. They were both great and very summery.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Summer is to pick doughnut peaches from the back yard and soon hazelnuts from the front. Suffer the loss of crop I planted, to dear, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits and more. See a woodpecker pecking at our gutters... But more than anything, this summer is to spend alot of time with my wonderful daughter.

    1. Knowing how much you suffer at the paws of all creatures great and small, I assume you meant DEER.....

  2. Oh, Bella. You turn life into poetry.