Summer Solace

Every year around June 21, I find myself sorting through mixed feelings about the changing seasons. The solstice marks the beginning of summer, my favorite time of year.

However, it also marks the longest day of the year, which by default means that progressively shorter days will follow—and that’s not cool.

I’m not what you would call an avid outdoorswoman. I sweat too much and attract way too many mosquitoes for that. I don’t care for sleeping on the ground, although I will if everyone else is doing it, and I’m afraid of heights, which makes any ambitious hiking problematic. But I love to swim, and I love to bike, and I love the way I feel when I’ve shaken off the winter cold and the spring rain to stretch my muscles and embrace the sunshine.

In this season, there is a bounty of adventures to fill the days. To prepare myself, I have tuned up my bike, purchased a new swimsuit, and added highlights to my hair. Now I’m ready to spend some serious hours enjoying life outside.

I have often said that my perfect day entails an early morning bike ride (to avoid the real heat of the day), lunch consisting of a CPK Barbecue Chicken Chopped Salad (so I can feel like I’m being healthy), an afternoon swimming and sitting by the pool (to read, relax, and soak up the sun), an evening movie (to cool off in the air conditioning), and a night full of Mexican food and margaritas (yum!). The elusiveness of such a day makes it all the more magical.

Now, you might be thinking I could accomplish this perfect day, or some variation of it, any time of year. I could find an indoor pool to swim in, and movies and margaritas abound whether it is winter, spring, or fall. But to really make this day work, it has to be summer.

It’s hard to deny that life is a little easier to take when the sun is out, the flip-flops are on, and the restaurants have opened their beer gardens. Work isn’t so bad when there’s still enough daylight to get a run in afterward. And who doesn’t like to see people wearing skimpy clothes and showing off their freshly tanned skin, their freshly buffed biceps?

The summer solstice isn’t all glad tidings, however. Although I’ve done the prep work to take part in everything summer has to offer, not long after the solstice my thoughts turn dark. With less and less daylight accompanying each rotation of the earth, I get anxious thinking about how soon it will be fall, and after fall comes winter, and winter is my least favorite season! What’s going on here?! The whole world is on the decline and I have experienced only a fraction of what I had planned! Damn it, why does this keep happening to me?!

As I go about my summertime activities, I am haunted by this feeling of sorrow and remorse. I try to be happy for the new season of romance, vacations, and sunburns, attending a swim party or two, maybe a couple of barbecues. But every event is tainted by the knowledge that the gloom of winter is right around the corner. Winter means staying inside, shoveling snow, and not seeing sunlight for days on end. Ugh. I can’t go through that again. It seems to me this is just one more injustice dealt out by Mother Nature—how can I accept that what should be the best day of the year signals impending doom? And there’s not a thing I can do about it!

And that’s when I find my solace.

It takes me nearly a month to mourn this loss of sunlight, but when I have grown tired of my despair, I decide to take action. (Yes, this happens every year.) I make a plan to take advantage of all of the good things about summer, all of the things I have been looking forward to for six months yet haven’t gotten around to doing. Usually this means outlining a schedule of bike riding in the middle of the day, swimming as many weekends and evenings as possible, finding someone who likes to hike the less ambitious trails, and cramming as many movies into a Saturday night as any human can. This results in about four weeks of intense summer fun.

While I have to admit that I do always enjoy this month of frantic merrymaking, I think the time has come for me to take advantage of the long days before they are on the wane. This year I am implementing a plan to begin this take-the-bull-by-the-horns, immerse-myself-in-all-things-summer approach without waiting for my despair to subside. In fact, I will avoid the despair altogether and surge through the summer with all the energy of the sun! For ninety days I will eat, bike, swim, and drink margaritas to my heart’s content! Each day will be better than the last, and no boundary will go untested! I will enjoy every minute of the sunshine and never let a single drop slip through my fingers! I’m going to do it and nothing can stop me!

Okay, maybe I have made this plan before. And maybe it never quite works out because the weather doesn’t cooperate or work doesn’t cooperate or some other obligation comes up that prevents me from gorging on summertime excitement. And perhaps I have already figured out that it’s not really possible to spend three months overeating, overdrinking, and overexercising without burning out, especially at my advanced age. But maybe this year will be different. Maybe I can squeeze one more ounce of fun out of this season before I am hurtled into the next. I might fail, but it’s worth a try!

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