when i was little, summer commenced when martha hackney and i would take to the woods. or the cardboard box cupboard. a boggy wood stretched between our two houses, complete with babbling brook, and stepping stones, and a pond we named “green,” because it was carpeted in teeny-tiny french knots of muck. if we’d inspected with magnifying spectacle, we’d likely have noticed they were lilliputian lily pads, perches for froglets the size of half your pinkie. once in a while, we’d stretch out on a log and inspect. and try not to plop in (for that would certainly lead to tuberculosis. or worse. so we feared in our nine-year-old minds).
i can’t remember a summer in which martha and i did not devote every waking hour to the construction of one of our clubhouses. the woodsy variety. or the ones where we spent hours upon hours with scissors and glue and snippets of fabric, and leftover rolls of wallpaper, too. and boxes. boxes by the boxload. we upholstered. we carpeted. we strung make-believe lights. we made resplendent rooms for our miniature dolls. we daydreamed the day away, hands smudged with glue.
perhaps those are the roots of my summer-y inclination to tuck away in a spot that’s away from it all. under a willow tree might be ideal. but i’ve no babbling brook near this old shingled house where, more often than not, i’m the one in charge of flipping grilled cheese and stoking the fridge. so the clubhouse i call my own is the one at the end of a short winding walk, a brick walk that leads from the house through the garden to the slapping screen door. there, just inside, is a steep-ceilinged room, one with a fan that undulates the summer’s breeze. and old wicker chairs, ones i once scooped from the alley (yes, i did; rescuing the flock from unseemly demise), tucked to one side, while an old wobbly door, perched on four legs, now makes for a wobbly table.
we call it the summer house, for that’s what the real estate lady once called it. it’s a name with far more pizazz than really it musters. if you don’t mind a rip in your screens, if flaky paint from the chairs doesn’t bother you, if a teetering dinner plate doesn’t ruffle your feathers, well, then, we have a room for you.
this week, in a week that might be labeled “intensive care” (for the task of the week was intensively caring for one un-done heart), it’s the place to which i skittered away. i carried my load of summer reading. i settled my bum in the old wicker seats. and before i could turn a single page, i was wholly absorbed in the magic of that odd little place. a mama wren flitted in and out of the birdhouse (she was tending her thimble-sized brood, delivering wren-sized delectables on a quarter-hourly basis). a cardinal paid me no mind, heralding the dawn, and later, the twilight.
a place to escape is a critical place. a place that, perhaps, no other season so offers. but summer, after all, demands it. promises it. it’s the one time of year when you can stretch out your legs, cross your ankles, and know you’re doing your duty: you’re summering. however you define it.
for me, summering is a verb with pages to turn. it’s sipping slowly from tall sweaty vessels of lemony water. it’s slapping away mosquitoes, and keeping watch for the firefly. it’s taking time out and not feeling guilty. it’s feeling like friday afternoon stretches for days. it’s relishing: a balsa wood baskets of berries; fat spears of asparagus charred from the grill; a book i don’t want to end; daybreak with a hot mug of coffee; mama wren enchanting with her motherly duties; nightfall with a flute of prosecco.
it’s the one time of year that begs us to savor the succulence. to consider the high art of nonchalance and lull without purpose. it’s the deep down knowing that if you’re turning a page, staring into the distance, or keeping watch on a wren, you are more than doing your job. you’re inhaling the whole of the blessing, the one that now is upon us: welcome to summer.
how do you define summering? and what’s your tucked-away spot?
My tucked away spot is your house.
Can’t make out all of the titles… I want a good no brainier book. I’m reading several teddy Roosevelt books (great)and quite a few business/marketing books (yuk).
Andrea Lavin Solow Sent from my iPad
the titles in that stack are “H is for Hawk,” a book i LOVE. “Joe Gould’s Teeth,” by Jill Lepore, who i love. “Kitchens of the Great Midwest,” sent to me for work, but which seems like a really fun summery read. “The Art of the Personal Essay,” been reading for more than a year; need to jumpstart the read. “Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand,” sent to me for work, and I love it. and i want to finish it. i get too distracted. my summer work is cut out for me…..
Summering! Oh, yes! It’s indeed a verb, and you’ve penned a glorious ode to it here! (I’m so relaxed now, I think I’ll leave my household chores for another day…) I just love that you have a summer house retreat. And just think, it’s a morning in early June — summer’s soft hours are only just beginning to unfurl. Ahhh…. xxoo
P.S. You and I had such similar childhoods…. I, too, spent practically all my waking hours in the woods beside a hidden spring-fed pond. And I decorated extravagant cardboard dwellings for Holly, my dear Siamese kitty.
how come there is little surprise that we shared similar summers, a few hundred miles apart. i’ll bet we read the same books, too.
idea: wouldn’t it be fun to re-read a summer’s worth of childhood treasures, compile a list of the books that sent us to the moon, and read them once again: Secret Garden, Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, Little House (alllllllll…..)….
Yes!! Ready, set, GO!! xoxo
“the high art of nonchalance.” That’s a keeper.
bless your beautiful and generous heart….
Oh, I remember Martha. She delighted in everything, and had the best and readiest smile and laugh in the whole 6th grade. Our 6th grade “predictions” were that she’d have a talk show.
Love your summer house. We had one, the front half of our tool shed was a screened porch. My brother and I slept out there all summer with sleeping bags on folding cots, brought the little TV out there too, struggling to stay awake for Johnny Carson’s monologue, then soaked our feet in the dewy grass trotting in for breakfast in the a.m. Now, summer is sleeping in with the blinds open, feeling in a treehouse with the tall oaks right outside the window. I think it brings me back to that screened porch.
oh, wow!!!! i LOVE that you remember martha. she was my best best. i wound up spending much of yesterday trying to find her. i might have. the wonders of facebook. i’ve left a message, and i hope and pray she finds it. doesn’t look like she spends much time on FB. i LOVE your memories of your screened porch and johnny carson and dewy grass. i hope and pray i find dear martha. i want to ask her about the talk show. xoxoxox
While we don’t have a geographically separate pozzie to escape to we do have our garden which is perfect to sit in with a good book or two. Love the atmosphere you conjured with words and photo. I have H is for Hawk on my Kindle waiting for a chunk of reading time to get a good start on it. Take care 🙂 Linda
a magical place is a magical place, defined by one’s imagination and one’s heart. perhaps we can both find our way to following the hawk till the very last page…..happy summer.
summering in red crocs – with the strap held up and over the foot instead of the back where it chafes and makes slipping into hazardous, I’ve discovered a friend in you. And your words which are exquisite. You write like an angel.
well, dear jody, you’d better believe i am going to go find your blog and discover a new friend myself. bless you so much for stopping by. over the years, we’ve made this a sacred gentle corner of the universe. friends are always welcome here. take good care. b.