Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Paradox of Summer

Van Ghost--"Summer Promise" (mp3)
Belle and Sebastian--"A Summer Wasting" (mp3)

Summer days are a precious commodity. Unfortunately, when I perceive something as too precious, I become a bit obsessed with how to hang onto it, or, how to best "spend" it. A substantial gift card drives me crazy because I debate so much with myself about what to do with it. With summer, my problem is that I get pulled in two directions simultaneously, and often find myself often unsatisfied with both.

Here's the first: End of school, beat to hell, had enough, can barely drag myself to my office, and feeling like this, the only thing I want to do is to get the hell out of Dodge! So, I start looking for grants, pressing for overseas opportunities, or just planning a bunch of good ol' vacations of various lengths that will get me away from here whenever possible. Heck, a trip to the outlet malls down in Calhoun 50 miles away feels like a sabbatical.

Here's the second: With school over and the chance to have some down time, with a 4:00 PM release time during summer work days, I finally have a chance to appreciate what's around here, from big events like Riverbend and the Strut to little pleasures like a family movie or the lure of my grill on the back deck.

But, you see, here's the problem. I've spent summers here taking the "small pleasures" approach, and, tell me if I'm wrong, but what happens is that the days all have a certain sameness to them, which isn't a bad thing in itself, but the sameness of days makes them all run together and uses up the summer way, way too quickly. When I get into that kind of rut, I start to get miserable and develop a bad case of cabin fever, or Chattanooga fever.

And here's the problem. When I get that grant or seminar or trip together and it finally comes time to leave, the time to leave always seems to hit just when the garden is starting to come in, the tomatoes are ripening, the basil is ready for pesto, the pepper plants are shedding their blooms in favor of small fruit that will grow and ripen quickly in the sun. And all of the work I've done on the house--the clearing, the cutting, the reorganizing, the throwing out, has made for a much more comfortable living environment now ready to be enjoyed. And people are ready to plan things, but in summer, since everyone leaves at different times for different places, there's always this "What? You're leaving then? I thought we were gonna...."

I'm not sure there's a solution. Like all beautiful things, the key to the summer's beauty is its transience, and so there's not really any way to pack all of the home joys and all of the pleasures of travel into what has become about 10 short weeks.

But I can't deny that when I'm sitting on my deck drinking a beer and listening to Dylan, I wish we had gone to New Orleans after all. And when I'm exploring the wonders of Chicago for a month, I know I'll tire of the pressure and pace and inconvenience of the big city and wish I were doing something simple like making pesto from my garden and spreading it on a piece of French bread with a few slices of my tomatoes.

Sure, with the heat and the work and the expenses, summer will eventually have us yearning for fall (probably not me, but some people have this feeling). But the stronger yearning will be for the next summer to come, the next chance to perfectly spend that most precious of commodities--summer days, albeit as someone another year older.

Van Ghost's Melodies for Lovers will be released soon. Belle and Sebastian is/are available at Itunes.


Anonymous said...

You nailed it once again; having just gotten back from a two thousand mile, eight day road trip with the girls, I've been digging just being at the house, making gazpacho and fried green tomatoes from the bounty of the garden. The thought of going out west is exciting, but as I look at my garden, knowing that it'll be paying off in the next month, I get kinda blue...

Daytimerush said...


troutking said...

I'm glad there's someone else out there who sometimes manages--through his own indecision---to turn the blessing of summer vacation into a curse of confusion on how to spend it. Mine is always about do I tailor my plans to spend as much time as possible with family and friends or do I say screw that and disappear for two months of flyfishing and Dylan/Springsteen chasing. In any case, I will see you in Chicago in a few weeks for some heart-stopping, booty shakin', earth quakin' home of Muddy Waters blues music!

Anonymous said...

Summer is 1 of the great inventions ever-Jason