Summertime, It’s A State of Mind

Summertime, It’s A State of Mind

Laura K. Secor

Ah, glorious June.  Isn’t it the most beautiful month of the year?  So many luscious shades of green, all shiny and new.  We know the heat is coming, but it’s not here yet. Evenings are still mild, not yet the sweaty indolence of August.  The world seems new, bursting with sudden flowers after a cold and rainy spring. As I walk in the woods, I think of a recent poem I read, by our good friend Mary, and I realize that summer is a state of mind.

Well?  Did your heads explode from the cognitive dissonance?  I know you were expecting the turning of the trees, the crunch of dried leaves underfoot, the smell of brush fires in the air…

Guess what?  I’ve got that too.  Are you ready?

Sunlight shines green through the leaves of the oak tree, but not for much longer.  Already the green leans towards yellow, forgetting the intensity of spring. A goose pecks at the drying grasses; where have her sisters gone?  All summer the parents raised ten goslings, fuzzy fluff balls, until suddenly there were twelve adults, and then only one. A flock of joggers waft by, chattering about their co-workers.  I smell their shampoo, their laundry detergent, but no sweat. Their feet pass near the sprung mushrooms, a miniature city inhabited by nobody. A young couple walk by pushing a baby carriage; the woman shows no sign of baby fat on her trim butt.  I coo at the sleeping baby. We pass a floppy stuffed bear, perched on a stool under the weeping willow. A woman raises her camera and aims at the bear. What is art, after all?

Then there are the dogs.  The smallest are fastest, except one which has arthritis and walks with a rolling limp.  Rhea loves the biggest dogs, drool and all. We stop to pet a bear of a dog, camped out in the middle of the trail, panting, and the owner says this is the dog’s favorite park.  How can she tell? We might be in the market for a dog, and I ask Rhea which one she’d take home. We both like the golden-doodle. Designer dogs! I count the memorial benches, until we reach our endpoint, Elise Marie Gagne.  Did she die young? We turn and make our way back past the dogs, the baby, the mushrooms, the joggers, the woman with her camera, the green oaks.

[end paean to autumn]

Did that feel better?  Did it feel comfortable to be properly situated with seasonally appropriate imagery?  How many of you have gone to Yankee Candle to buy the fall fragrances, to put away the Juicy Watermelon and Peach Mimosa and replace them with Farmstand Festival?  Yes, like you I enjoy marking the turn of the seasons, but lately, the last couple years, I find that I enjoy holding the image of all four seasons in mind, during any given season.  In the heat of summer I imagine shoveling snow. Seeing the leaves come off the trees, I imagine the fresh buds forming on those barren branches.

Do you remember last month I gave you a Mary Oliver poem about making your own Walden Pond experience, wherever you are?  I’ve been thinking about that poem, and it has been the inspiration for this Nugget. In case you don’t remember the finer points, I’m including it again.

Going to Walden

It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.
Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!
Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe.  But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.

This poem has so many meanings for me.  The expectation we bring to our experiences has everything to do with how we encounter each new situation.  The trick is in seeing with new eyes, as Marcel Proust would have it. I am looking at autumn with my summer eyes, and my springtime eyes, and yes, my winter eyes too.  I wonder if I am a failed Buddhist, because I am so familiar with the Buddhist exhortation to “live in the moment”. But I feel the presence of all moments, past and future as well as present.  I remember parents who are gone, I imagine children my young daughter may someday have. I feel like I’m surfing the sea of time, not limited to the perspective of the leaf floating downstream, always at only one spot at any given moment.

Enjoy this beautiful fall day.  Go for a walk if you can. Smell the trees.  Imagine everything!