June 23, 2008

Summer, officially

It matters which way the shadow falls

The monastery grounds, which consist mostly of sheep barns and pastures spread high on a hill above farmland and woods and a sleepy river, seemed the right place to welcome summer. On the longest day of the year, I wandered along paths, smelling the dried grasses, the new timothy, and the wildflowers that clustered along the gates and fences. The scents of summer sank into my muscles, relaxing me. Perhaps it's because I've always had such carefree summers of camping and hiking and gardening, spending as much sunny weather as I can outdoors, that warm air brushing against my bare arms has the ability to brush away stress. As a child, I always liked the "summer" sections of books: the adventures of the Melendy family in the Elizabeth Enright books, or sunny weather on the prairies with the Ingalls family, or the walks on the Big Hill with Betsy, Tacy, and Tib. I'd read them on winter afternoons just to feel soothed by the descriptions of summertime.

Perhaps you need to experience winter in a place that gets a whole lot of snow to fully appreciate how wonderful it feels to walk in the evening without a sweatshirt, watching the long shadows fall across the fields. I love the lazy rhythm of summer, and at the monastery, the summer quiet is especially deep, broken only by the bleating of the sheep and the tolling of the chapel bell, calling monks and inviting guests to prayer.

8 comments:

Lorianne said...

Amen! It's always such a wonderful feeling to shed the coats, scarves, layers of fleece, etc. For me, the first sign of spring/summer is the first day I can trade boots for sandals. The best part of summer, I think, is refusing to wear socks for as long as humanly possible.

jaysonwithaY said...

Considering the eastern philosphies, I might have the yin to your yang. There is a zendo near my inlaws, in the center of State Named for a Famous Quaker, where the clutch of cold winter breaks silently before the warm stone hearth. As I sweat now in our southern piedmont, your contrast reminds me of another season and those quiet sittings.

Yankee, Transferred said...

You write so beautifully, jo(e)

BlackenedBoy said...

I have to agree with jaysonwithaY. While I love summer and agree that that love is enhanced by the transition from cold weather, during summer I always find myself thinking of lower temperatures and later seasons.

The problem with that, of course, is that the "winters" of Southern State are tepid compared with those of Native State, the end result being that it's cold enough to make you miserable but not cold enough to snow.

Kathryn said...

Oooooh...Jo(e)...The Melendys. I loved those books so much in my childhood, but they were only briefly published here and somehow my own copies disappeared (possibly fell apart...I read and read again, and they were only paperbacks)
Are they still in print in the US? I longed for them for Hattie Gandhi, but that was pre amazon, and they just weren't available here. Thanks for happy memories

jo(e) said...

Blackened Boy: I don't think I'd love summer so much if I lived in the south.

jo(e) said...

Kathryn: You can still get the books here. You know how they leave the city move out to the country? Well, they lived pretty near where I live.

(Yes, I realize I'm talking about fictional characters but the setting wasn't fictional ....)

Anonymous said...

Oh God I want to go back home! I moved to a crowded concrete desert about a year ago from the green hills of the east and your photos here are breaking my heart. Thanks, though.