Summer Love

We filled the lounge chairs of my parents’ backyard with our friends, scraping the metal legs against the concrete to avoid the splashes escaping the pool. Notes were passed through many hands, but I can’t remember what they said. We played Sardines and Ghosts in the Graveyard, later than we should have, because Indiana summer isn’t dark until after nine o’clock. I climbed in and out of different cars, and back in again: the vintage purple Corvette that always got attention at a stoplight; the Jeep missing second gear, in which I learned to drive a stick, late one night, around and around my neighborhood; the beat-up Toyota that always felt the safest—until it didn’t. I hated the way wet grass felt in my toes, but I was always barefoot anyway. Some mornings, I can still feel the yellow light of late July, the way it looked on a particular day especially.

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A wellspring of nostalgia waits in this season. The older I grow, the thicker it feels. How languid and boring those adolescent summers felt then, but looking behind me they are memories of freedom and possibility.

I think about the liquid associations with the summertime—the diving, the floating, the treading and splashing, sweating, dashing through the rain at the sight of lightning.

It’s the same sense of humidity, when summer floods my being and my memory. I want to dive into it and splash around; but it’s a slow, thick substance to work through, to keep my head up above, and there are dangers in its distant skies.

There was a sticky oppressiveness to the summers of my youth—but how differently I feel that now. As a child, I wore it on my skin, into late nights watching out my bedroom window for the day’s last fireflies and glimpses of my future. Then my heart was light like screeching laughter and the wind whipping my hair around the truck cab.

In these mountains of my adulthood, the literal and metaphorical peaks and valleys, even the summer air is crisp and thin. My skin warms to the sun’s scorch, thawing. The summer weight instead swims into my head and fogs my brain. What is real and what is clouded with summer’s familiar wetness?

I have slowly grown up into the summer, written odes about my newfound adoration for its heat and light. I was born into the heart of it, nearly 35 years ago now; but I have taken my time accepting this bond—a bride given into an arranged marriage, who eventually finds herself in the best possible match.

Now I remember everything differently, how surely I must have known from the very beginning, what a special time it was and is.

A poem about the first summer I loved it.


2015/2016

I just needed a few weightless moments, high up in my parents' house, tucked into the garden tub next to the window. I could see the tops of trees and the soft snow floating by like a distant relative of the white fluff I'd piled high up the sides of the bath. I laid there with my eyes closed, soaking the heaviness out of my limbs. I have begun physically manifesting the stress of life over the last month or two, and a bathtub is one of those things I thought I could easily go without until it was absent from my day-to-day. I mourned the loss of this little luxury, then tried to be grateful for these moments I had in it.

My stress is not without merit, but I dwell on it to the point of ridiculousness. I wallow in it until it seems immense and impossible, like I'm battling in the toughest war ever encountered. I actually thought that, relaxing in the whirlpool of my parents' mountain home. As soon as the thought crossed my mind, the weariness somewhat drained as I had hoped, it was replaced by an overwhelming sadness for my current state--a nasty, selfish worldview. I'm a spoiled brat.

So in penance I toiled over the struggles of others around the world. I thought through 2015 and how, from the comfort of my own home, surrounded by my family, I've heard tell of hunger and murder and displacement and discord. I tried to imagine a woman, perhaps just my age, maybe with two children of her own, but on the other side of the world. Where I worry about comforts, she may worry about necessities. Where I struggle through a living, she is actually trying to stay alive. I obsess over the insignificant details of silly interactions, and her relationships are what she clings to for survival.

I pulled the plug on the tub and lay back to let gravity take its toll, crushing upon on my bones, sinking me down, down, down. The weight of humanness.

"Touch it," I hear. "Feel it."

As much as I know being human is temporary, this past year I have come to understand the big importance of it. We all bear humanity's heaviness; and we all receive the privilege of participating in it. Me and my friend across the world. 

It's the end of the year, so I've thought about the process of our new year's resolutions, how we make lists to "better" ourselves, things generally related to weight and bad habits and somehow elevating ourselves nearer the impossible standards we allow culture to dictate. The other woman, she will want to better herself too; but she will do so without a juicer or a workout plan or new beauty products to aid her vanity. How easily distracted we are. What I focus on covering up, she will expose and correct. 

Last year, in lieu of resolutions, I gave myself grace

. I have felt the grace soften and reopen my heart in a far more real way than I could have anticipated. For grace to continue its work, I must be willing to change my perspective. I must be pliable enough to be redirected and refashioned, especially where it is hardest or scariest. I thought I might forgo the resolutions process again, and instead I will try to ask myself questions, bringing to light and becoming vulnerable with what I think I can fix on my own, but really can't. Since I learned this year anyway, life has little to do with living rightly or wrongly, and a lot more to do with the way in which we move through it. That's really the humanness part--not how we achieve living across some moral spectrum or according to tools of measurement, but the fact that we simply do it, in the face of its weight.

Maybe, in being human, my international friend is not so different than me. Maybe we all want the same things, and some of us--like me--have a misconstrued vision of how to get there. There aren't steps, there aren't formulas, there aren't really even ways of being. Humanity is fluid, and it's all important, all beautiful, all good. The choice really is not in how we touch life but in how we let it touch us, by daily casting off the standards that tell us to do and measure, and instead asking the questions that help us to feel life to its fullest:

  1. Am I saying yes and being brave?
  2. Am I leaning on my own understanding?
  3. Am I exercising perseverance?
  4. Am I exuding grace?
  5. Am I a steward of others and what I've been given myself?
  6. Am I aware of the moment?
  7. Am I being unashamedly, boldly myself?
  8. Am I pursuing my dreams?
  9. Am I acting in love?

I am grateful for the grace I found in 2015. I hope I was able to give it. Here's to a brave, big, and full 2016. Happy New Year!

Things I Didn't Know Before This Year

1. It takes longer to figure anything out than they say it will.

2. You will never actually feel your age (or rather, what you think your age should feel like).

3. I actually like a center part when my hair is long.

4. Life happens. It doesn't happen the right way or the wrong way. It just happens, and you go from there. 

5. It's not so much the busy-ness of cities that appeals to me, but the un-stuck-ness of them. I care less about being busy and more about being flexible.

6. I can finish writing a book. Whether or not I can finish revising remains to be seen.

7. I lost my voice. I think I'm finding it again. But fear can creep into places where you were certain you were certain. I'm going to try to be braver and more disciplined instead of louder and apathetic.

8. You can't relive a single, solitary second, so you better pay attention the first time. (I have to relearn this every year, which is dumb.)