Getting the most out of summer

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

– Robert Frost

Once you realise this floating life as the perfect mirage of change, it’s breathtaking – this wild joy at wandering boundless and free. 

– Han Shan

As a child in Germany summer was a never-ending outdoor adventure story. It was easy to leave behind the tight rhythms of the school term and float free.  There was boredom at times but somehow that was part of the seasonal languor. The weather helped – usually there were weeks of sunshine, interrupted only by the occasional thunderstorm.

Uncharacteristically, it hasn’t rained in Scotland for weeks (even if there are signs of it turning as I am writing this). Letting go into that summer feeling however doesn’t come quite so easy anymore.  I remember being able, even as a young adult to lie down on a stretch of grass in the sun somewhere, inhale the scent of  ripe seeds and dry soil and surrender into the earth. I felt like some kind of beautiful, long-limbed animal. An antelope maybe.

Now, there is always the smartphone, tethering me to the possibility of work.  The part of me that knows how to be on holiday has turned into a somewhat pale presence compared to the feisty, tireless inner worker.  I did go to the allotment today, but all I could see was the weeds that need pulling and the bare patch that needs re-sowing.  Eventually I sat down and had a conversation with these two parts and find out what their good intentions for me are. The inner worker wants me to feel a sense of purpose and meaning.   She is afraid, if she were to relax, I may flounder and drift.  The inner holiday maker wants me to ‘melt into life’.  That sounded quite spiritual and meaningful to the inner worker and she relented a little, allowing me to have a blissful afternoon nap, curled up on a sheep skin in the dappled shade of the plum tree.

I was pleasantly surprised by the shift I experienced on waking, extending my limbs into the warm summer air, luxuriating in innocent, bone-deep deliciousness, without a hint of censure. Yes, that’s what ‘enjoying the summer’ means.

Then I remembered a recent coaching session with a client, who was so intent on enjoying the summer that she got out of the habit of meditating. She arrived at an interesting insight: she was afraid of the summer ending.  She dreaded how the darkness might affect her mood. So she tried to get the most out of summer, with lots of travel, physical activity, good food and family time, trying to enjoy it all mindfully. But there was an uncomfortable, driven edge to her pleasure-seeking and she was reluctant to sit for any length of time and experience herself more fully.  She recognised that her fear of facing impermanence actually limited her enjoyment of the moment.  Part of the homework we designed together for her consisted in looking up poems on impermanence and using it to inspire her meditation.  It helps to see that facing change is not easy for any human being, and that it is also the doorway to this wild joy at wandering boundless and free, as Han Shan puts it.

Maybe poetry would work for you too? Here is another favourite of mine on Poem Hunter.

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