So often, when we remember the magical moments of our childhoods, those memories are doused in golden summer light. Long days and sunburned noses and the smell of cut grass and hot asphalt and maybe the feel of popsicle melting down our hands. We remember heat shimmering off of cracked sidewalks and drinking tepid water from garden hoses and hair that felt crunchy with salt water.Read More
Did you know that the proper shortened name for the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is "the Sierra", singular, not “the Sierras,” plural? I read that shortly after we arrived in Reno, but admit to slipping back to using “the Sierras” on occasion…forgive me, I’m working on it.
I’m heading home today from a whirlwind ten days in the PNW followed by a fantastic visit with a dear friend in North Carolina, so while you’re in the business of forgiving me, please add “didn’t write a blog post this week” to my sins and enjoy these images from a quick weekend getaway we took with our friend, Geoff, a few weeks ago in the Sierra (see? I’m improving already!). We hit up the fantastic Sierra Butte firetower and pretty much every lake in the immediate vicinity, most notably Upper Sardine Lake (the one I mentioned a few weeks ago)!
We woke to sunshine streaming through the window on the cool breeze, no alarms to wrest us from our dreams. We lingered for a bit, feeling the cradling of our pillows, the weight of the comforter, the warmth of sleepy skin and limbs all tangled together.
Ablutions taken care of, we ground coffee by hand and breathed in the scent of it on air still crisp but just beginning to give way to the coming warmth of the day. A leisurely walk with our slow-moving dog, a consensus reached to chase down brunch and a shady patio.
Crunchy potatoes and gooey omelettes stuffed with the season’s bounty and more steaming mugs full of rich, dark coffee. Comfortable silence broken by intermittent conversation. Place and purpose and growth and fear…and courage, of course we talked of courage.
Sated, we drove. Eventually highway turned to backroad and we traded tall buildings for towering trees. Between mountains we found water and still we drove on, past the boat launch and picnic tables, past more trees and more mountains. On we went until a rutted dirt road hinted at solitude and access and we inched and rocked and rumbled our way along it until we reached its terminus at a tiny inlet.
And there we stayed, languishing by emerald water under the shade of lanky ponderosa pines. Chipmunks scurried and chattered, and water lapped, and black and white bellied northern flickers tap-tap-tapped the sticky bark for the buggy treasures hidden below. We read and scribbled and napped and swam. No agenda. No schedule. We quoted to each other funny passages from our books. We talked of nothing and took turns swaying in the hammock and laughed at our silly dog sleeping upside-down in the dirt-bed she so industriously dug for herself.
When the sun began to slide down toward the horizon, we were loathe to leave our quiet space, to relinquish back roads for highways, to pick up our burdens once more. We ambled back down the mountains in contented silence, the warm glitter of late day light sparkling off of the river as it accompanied our path home.
Not every day goes according to plan. Wrenches get thrown and troubles must be faced and the mundane tasks of everyday life can sometimes feel as though they are taking over. But sometimes we get a rare sweet day when there simply is no plan and we make time to be still, to listen to the wind caress the treetops and the waves kiss the shoreline. Sometimes we let go, we stop striving , we allow for possibility and are rewarded with one perfect day.
As August draws to a close and Labor Day looms as the official end of summer, I feel a shock that the season has already come to a close without my ever having felt as though I’d sunk my teeth into it. That shock of time racing past is no less jarring for it’s familiarity, no easier a pill to swallow.
I find myself increasingly beset by memories of summers past, perhaps my subconscious’s attempt at recovering some part of it all. Days spent pedaling beat-up bicycles to swim practice in the dewy morning, or playing rousing games of Marco Polo or Sharks and Minnows in the deep end of Kingswood Pool. Mat in trouble (again) and made to sit “time out” under the lifeguard stand where the high school boys charged with guarding our collective lives dropped peanuts or M&Ms through the wooden slats into his open, laughing mouth. Dinner on paper plates at a wobbly picnic table, fingers sticky with carmelized bottled bbq sauce and dripping with the melted butter from boiled corn on the cob. Watermelon for dessert and spitting the seeds at each other the moment Mom’s back was turned.
When the sun dipped low on the horizon and aloe had been applied to overly sun-kissed noses, the frantic search for batteries commenced as the neighborhood kids young and old gathered for flashlight tag. Climbing the neighbors’ fences, racing across lawns, sneaking through the dark woods, and screeching in terrified delight when caught, there were no beeping cell phones or bright screens to remind us of the world beyond, and we halted only when a parent called out or used their trademark summoning device (the Conrads had a cowbell and the Tates an old dinner triangle…my Mom had a voice that could always reach us, no additional apparatus necessary).
We fell into our beds, teeth and faces scrubbed, shoulders in six stages of peeling, and we slept heavy and deeply, in the way of bodies spent to exhaustion in joyful abandon. We didn’t know yet what a “beach body” was or whether we had one, we didn’t realize yet that dangerous things could hide in the dark. We ran on strong legs and swam with lithe strokes and we used the gift of long sunlit hours without yet being haunted by “should."
As August wrapped us in the last throes of hot summer, the final weeks of that month would begin including classroom assignments arriving by mail and the purchase of new backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes. The frenetic, energetic freedom of summer would subtly begin to shift toward routines and the potential of new learning. When Labor Day officially tipped the balance into fall, it was once again school nights and bedtimes and homework, and there was a sort of relief and comfort in that as well.
And here I am, again in these same hot summer days of waning August touched with the cool nights of September on her way. I missed summer this year. I spent it packing and purging and scrambling to create a new life and when I looked up, it was slipping toward the horizon. I can accept that…but just this one time.
I will greet September as my old friend and breathe in her promise of freshly sharpened pencils and unmarked notebooks waiting to be filled with ideas and thoughts and wonderings. I will slough off the feeling of having been cheated over the missed summer and pay extra attention to the season I am in, watching carefully for the moment the leaves begin to change hue and gathering apples from trees in my shirttail-turned-bushel-basket. Heck, maybe I’ll even attempt an apple pie in our tiny toaster oven.
These days fly by in the cliche-for-a-reason blink of an eye. I was lucky to have childhood summers full of wild freedom and exuberance. In my adulthood, I must seek that kind of abandon out, take responsibility for creating “summer” as it was meant to be for myself, balanced against the standard obligations and encumbrances of work and home and family and a life that is mine to mold.
Here at the end of this golden, bright August, I inhale the last of these sweet summer days and welcome the chill that harkens the next season…of the year and of my life.
PSSSSSSTTTT...don't forget that today is the last day for early-bird pricing on The Art of Noticing Retreat! Registration closes September 10, so be sure to sign up soon!
Please let me state for the record that I am not a hotel connoisseur...given my usual accommodations of tents/hostels/ empty airport terminals, sometimes a Motel 6 can seem like luxury to me. But I just had to share this place with you guys because even I could tell it was something pretty extraordinary! Again...not a connoisseur nor an architectural/interiors photographer (these are just quick snapshots I grabbed throughout the weekend), but I just had to share!
I love things, people, places that are FUN. I know that seems like an obvious statement, but I truly value good cheer and bright playfulness over many other qualities, and most definitely over stuffy sophistication (okay, so I avoid stuffy sophistication like the plague, truth be told, but you get what I mean...). Maybe it's my age/stage, but I increasingly find anything too pretentious or that take themselves too seriously simply laughable.
I started smiling the second I entered the lobby. Beautiful, of course, but moreover, just plain ol' friendly and inviting! I couldn't wait to sit in one of the swinging chairs by the front window or drink coffee on the porch overlooking the water in one of their comfy seating areas.
The staff was adorable and really could have all passed for summer camp counselors...they were friendly and accommodating and found answers for me when they didn't know right away. When there was some confusion at both check-in and check-out (I was there for work and there was client billing involved which complicated matters), they were helpful and eager to please and followed up with me to check that everything was 100%.
Our room was snug and cozy, just their most basic offering, but I loved it. The little details like great colors and textures, awesome toiletries, a fantastic shower (glorious water pressure!), and bedside clock radios that featured all the modern necessities, made this "low-end" room a great experience. The only hiccup at all was the old air conditioning unit...the room tended to be either too warm or too cold and the thing made quite a racket when it was running, but I'm not one to get hung up on such things!
After walking through Oak Bluffs and grabbing a bite to eat one evening (we got the BEST french fries at Fat Ronnie's Burger Bar!), Justin and I discussed our future and nailed down some plans over a rousing game of ping-pong in the game room...he beat me in the end, but I gave him a run for his money! It's one of the very few hotels I've ever stayed in where the guests truly made use of the lobby and shared public spaces...in the evenings, people were curled up on the porch and enjoying the view, all day the lobby and game rooms were buzzing with people taking advantage of the cute snack bar or nubby upholstered furniture.
So...if you find yourself headed to Martha's Vineyard for a weekend getaway, I can't recommend Summercamp highly enough! It's fun, comfortable, beautiful, and perfectly engenders the joy of summer and vacation and play.