In 30 seconds…
Welcome to the start of summer! Now slow down.
You don’t want to miss anything by hurrying past it. And there is no need to sweat even more, unless you’re also having fun while doing it.
That’s the wisdom of summer. It teaches us to be fully awake, engaged and open to everything around us. It’s about being outside, whether on populated streets or deep in nature.
It’s the season for relaxing and the pursuit of happiness.
And if there was a summer in our lifetimes that felt extra freeing, it’s this one, as we emerge from our state of pandemic hibernation, squinting into the brightness of a new dawn.
So get out! Go camping, or at least spend the day in the woods. Savor cherries, peaches, watermelon, funnel cake and ice cream. Gulp lemonade. Get wet, see an outdoor performance or two, watch movies and thunderstorms, enjoy books with scant literary merit just for the guilty pleasure of it.
Summer is life. And life is precious and wild — and it moves too fast.
Life is precious
I understand the argument against the season: It’s hot, sticky and, sometimes, boring. Tempers can flare. There is not enough air conditioning and, because of the climate crises, already too much.
But summer is a state of mind. Whatever we do during its few months, summertime remains fixed in our collective consciousness. This is the season when many of our deepest memories are forged; it plays a starring role in the highlight reel of our childhood.
So dig in and make some new memories, even if your plans are no more ambitious than to take naps, read outside, sleep in a tent and float in a pool. Not everyone can afford sailing trips and Caribbean vacations, but many of summer’s greatest pleasures are simple and inexpensive.
Life is wild
Summer is full of simple outdoor pleasures, such as the feeling of sun and wind on your arms and legs, freshly uncovered. The season contains a kind of happiness born out of escapes of any kind. It tastes of roasted vegetables and fruit so ripe it dribbles off your chin.
This is the time to get out as much as you can for as long as you can. Tend the garden, climb the trees, swim in the waves, eat outdoors, take a walk at dusk and sleep under the stars.
Studies have long established a link between mental health and nature. The more we connect with what is outside, the more content we become inside.
Internationally, summer holidays are largely celebrations of nature. For example, the summer solstice — the longest day of the year every June — aligns with holidays in Sweden and Norway that are full of singing, dancing, eating and partying. Throw your own solstice party, even if you’re the only guest; just make sure the venue is outside.
Life moves pretty fast
Summer is a wonderfully kinetic time, a season of youth, activity, celebration and revolution. It encourages dancing under sprinklers, sparklers and stars. It beckons us on long bike rides and hikes. It’s the season of swimming and tents, of giving into the gravitational pull of trees and bodies of water. But conversely, it’s also the time to do as little as possible. It’s the season to just … be.
Let the heat encourage you to be sluggish so you have time to savor these pleasures. Waste time without guilt. “Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability,” the philosopher Sam Keen wrote.
‘Tis the season for laying in a hammock, sipping iced tea or a seasonal beer, and staring up at tree limbs swaying in the breeze. It’s for blockbuster movies, entertaining book and magazine indulgences, and outdoor festivals.
Long hours of daylight mean more daytime to greedily partake in more of everything. Dinners and bedtimes migrate late, and if you’re really lucky sleeping in can stretch until the sun streams through windows.
Time shifts in summer — there seems to be more of it while also going by too quickly.
Then it’s all over, a melting Popsicle fragment bleeding on the sidewalk.
‘To everything, there is a season’
As the year progresses, try to align your mental and physical activity to the season you’re in. Commune with the change in nature, embrace its reminders. Celebrate the holidays, take in their meanings, enjoy the spoils of whatever time of the year you find yourself.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.
In the fall, welcome an inward focus as the days get chillier and darker. In the winter, go deep inside yourself and get snug and comfortable there. In the spring, let yourself break out of the cocoon because we’ve endured the darkness and need to let in the light.
And in summer, get outside, commune with nature, embody freedom and chase happiness like a puppy after its own tail. And then fall down in the grass and lie there, for as long as you can. Live your one wild and precious life.