Summer Fun: Keeping a Summer Journal
A pitcher of ice-cold, iced tea, a big tureen of Gazpacho, picnics in the park while listening to an outdoor concert, going barefoot in a yard that was recently covered with snow or frost, lazy days walking to the library with a friend, or starting a summer reading list. These are all some of my favorite memories of summer, created over many years of summertimes. Recently, I spent several weeks with my Granddaughter and Daughter enjoying the transition from the busy, hectic school year into a more relaxed summer. Starting the summer season with my granddaughter reminded me of the importance of marking the changes and seasons of the year, and being more mindful and intentional about how we spend our time.
Today is the first day of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and time to ask ourselves the question, “What are my favorite memories of summertime?” Try it. Spend a few minutes looking back at favorite memories, and then see how you might incorporate some of those memories into your current life. Summer is the time when the fiery energy, the yang energy, heightens. Days are longer and warmer, and life slows down a bit, if we let it. What are some ways to enjoy the energy, light, and gifts of summer?
Start a summer journal. One of my favorite books of all time, Gifts from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, was written as a summer journal when she spent some time away at the seashore. Earlier this summer, we got my granddaughter a book, One Line A Day, which she immediately began and faithfully enters a daily observation or memory into. Keeping a journal or diary is easier when we have a little more time than usual, and it helps us develop a very good habit. Record in your journal some of the observations. What is growing or blooming in the garden today? What is ripening on the vine? What colors or weather patterns do you notice? I live on a river, and one of the many gifts of the river is the tide. Watching the tide go in and out, tracking the ships and boats, keeping track of the birds, both local and those in migration, are all subjects for a daily journal.
Awaken your senses by recording the favorite fragrances, sounds, tastes, tactile experiences and views of summer. The smell of roses in bloom, the sounds of children laughing, the creaking of the rocking chair where grandmother is sitting with a baby in her lap, the smell of Lindburger cheese penetrating every inch of the house on the hottest day of the year (I will never forget the putrid odor of my Grandfather’s cheese in the house when I was a small child), the feel of sand between your toes, or the aroma of hamburgers being fried on the grill on the pier.
Record your summer chores and adventures. Summer is a time when fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant. One of my favorite things to do is to make jam. Going berry picking either at a berry farm or picking them in the wild, is a favorite summer experience. Making jam and canning are both things that are fun to do in the summer. I make jam in the summer to give as gifts later in the year. It’s also something I like to do with one of my good friends, and something I share with my granddaughter. We are fortunate enough that canning and preserving is a choice. It is also a skill we can learn and pass on to our children and grandchildren.
Gardening is a favorite activity of ours year round, but summer is extra special because so much is growing. Whether you plant a potted herb garden, build a raised bed garden, or nurture and tend to a lawn and garden, keeping track of the garden in your summer journal provides a record and reminder of your gardening from one summer to the next. My granddaughter and I worked on our garden on the deck in San Francisco recently, and she created a meditation garden where she goes to pray and meditate. Playing in the garden, climbing trees, and exploring nature are all summertime pleasures, worth recording in a summer journal.
Clearing and cleaning is also a summer thing. I find myself busily cleaning floors and windows when the light is so abundant. It’s easier to see into the corners that I might miss during the darker days of winter and spring. Summer is also a time when we wear fewer clothes (depending on where you live, as SF can be colder in summer than at other times on many days). However, generally, we are wearing fewer articles of clothing, days and nights are warmer, and our homes get more fresh air and sunshine than at other times of year. It’s the perfect time to sort through items of clothing, shoes, hats, and other household items (linens, curtains/drapes, throw pillows) that can be recycled, donated, or repurposed. For example, old wash cloths become cleaning rags, or worn out and faded curtains can be spruced up by dyeing them or used for a painting drop cloth. Curtains also make great ‘tents’ for summer fun for little ones.
At a time of the year when we are feeling lighter, take the time to lighten your load and get rid of things that take up space, block energy, or are no longer serving a purpose. Good Feng Shui principles suggest that anything that has no purpose is blocking energy of some type. Stop for a moment and think about anything in your home/office that is blocking energy. Just off the bat, I can think of the box I took out of my car that is full of maps and automotive ‘stuff’. It does not belong on the floor of my office, but that’s where it has been for over a month. Time to sort through and get it moved out of that space. The top of my work table has several stacks that need to be removed. My kitchen counter is clear and clean, ready for me to make breakfast as I took the time to clean and clear it so that it’s ready for my day’s activities. Also, in anticipation for the Summer Solstice, I cleaned all the floors. Both small tasks have lightened me up. Think about what you want to do to lighten your life up just a bit, and then begin tackling it. Summer, the start of a new season, is an excellent time to clean our and air out the refrigerator. We eat differently in summer than we do the rest of the year. I took a long vacation just before summer began, and I left no food in my refrigerator when I was gone. When I returned this week, I gave the fridge a thorough cleaning before I did any shopping. Decided also to shop for veggies and fruit at the weekly farmers’ market, so as to avoid going to the grocery store more often than I need to.
Summer is a good time to revisit your eating habits, begin eating lighter, and creating some summer memories that will nourish you and others in years to come. Keep a pitcher of iced water, and one of iced tea, or lemonade in your fridge. Make a veggie tray filled with celery sticks, carrot sticks, jicama, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower. Serve half an avocado with some tomato slices drizzled with lemon juice as a salad. Use lettuce leaves as wraps instead of bread. Stuff celery sticks with almond/peanut butter or soft cheese. Make some cold soups, like Gazpacho or
As part of your summer journal, keep a visual record of your memories. My granddaughter and I went to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco recently. She has gone many times on field trips, so wanted to show me her favorite art. I brought along two sketch books and some pencils, and as we explored the art, we sat before each favorite piece and sketched. We also sat on their beautiful central staircase and sketched the architecture. She hung her sketches in her Art Gallery (the hallway at home), and was able to share her memories with her family and friends. Take some photographs, sketch, draw some pictures, or play around with other creative art forms, and create something beautiful and/or interesting to remember the summer. Honor the tactile. Collect shells, stones, flowers, leaves, or other mementos (ticket stubs, brochures, feathers).
Whether you choose a simple blank book, a 5-year diary, or the one-line-a-day journal, your experience of preserving memories helps create a wonderful tradition for you and those you love. For the simple, Three Year Line a Day journal and many other wonderful books for children, visit the Chronicle Bookstore at the Metreon.
When I first began writing this article, I went back into my memories to pull out some of my favorite, and not-so-favorite ones, to remind me of what summer has come to mean to me. In the process, I have discovered what now captivates me about summer and my own family. You might wonder what I sketched in the museum, and I would have to say that even though I loved the art, the sculptures, the artifacts, and the architecture, my favorite subject was sketching my granddaughter drawing memories of her own. Use your summer journal, be it visual or written, to connect to those memories which will nourish you during the cold of winter.