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Off-topic Friday: No such thing as an endless summer

When you’re a kid, summer stretches out before you, an endless string of long, sun-warmed days, and nights ripe with the possibility of adventure. I remember those summers. When I was growing up on Bayberry Hill I measured time in books read, spent whole afternoons in the shady boughs of a sugar maple in our front yard, and indulged often in cloud gazing.

Now that I’m a grown up (and a mom, to boot), summer doesn’t look quite as idyllic as my childhood memories recall.

Along with sunshine, summer brings the need for even more juggling than the rest of the year. Summer camps, family trips, and extra play dates – all of these things require extra planning and preparation, not to mention precision execution. And all this is added on top of the usual demands: housekeeping, grocery shopping, running to the vet and orthodontist and (gods of retail be kind) Costco.

Oh, and there’s also that little thing called “work” which doesn’t seem to understand the concept of summer vacation. Nope. It just keeps chugging along, tugging me in one direction while the allure of the beach tries to pull me in the other.

Ahhh … the beach.

We are so lucky to have such a beautiful stretch of Atlantic coast to call our own. Each year, I begin the summer swearing that this will be the summer that I spend more than a paltry handful of days enjoying the white sand, clear water, and lovely salt air.

But, who am I kidding? My summers are full of best intentions, and yet they always come to a close with so many things left undone. I promise myself that I will attend more concerts at Crane’s Castle, that I will finally get my act together and host a cookout, that I will hang a hammock (and take afternoon naps in the company of favorite novels and tall glasses of raspberry iced tea). The list goes on and on.

Perhaps the most bittersweet thing about summer is not that it seems shorter and shorter each year, but that there are more and more things I want to cram into those diminishing days. There are so many experiences I want to share with the people I love – everything from whale watches and mountain climbing to sitting in the dark, watching fireflies or having a lemonade stand on the front steps.

Summer is already halfway over, and my bucket list for the season has hardly a dent in it. The days are slipping through my fingers. (Are there still strawberries at Marini’s? Oh, I hope I haven’t missed them!) I can hear the ominous ticking of a metaphorical clock, counting down the minutes ‘til Labor Day.

I have to stop and remember that less is more.

Summer bursts at the seams with opportunities for fun and adventure and even a little bit of magic, but it’s impossible to wrap our arms around all of it. In fact, it’s exhausting. So, this year, instead of weighing my summer down with a long list of things I must do, I’m going to focus on really savoring the things I am doing. I’m going to take my time, ban multi-tasking, and stop scheduling one thing on top of another on top of another.

Summer should be about slowing down, unplugging, and relearning the art of doing nothing. We’ll still have adventures. We’ll still find magic. We’re just going to take each day of summer one at a time. They’ll last longer that way.


Image Credit: jamelah e. 

This piece was originally published in the Ipswich Chronicle as part of my bi-weekly column.


The transformative magic of snow

Welcome to off-topic Thursday – a little something to get you through the end of the week. Enjoy! 

When you are a child, there are few things more magical than snow. It has the power to transform the landscape, stop time, and make the whole world sparkle. Usual routines are pulled apart thread by thread until no shred of our ordinary day-to-day life remains. Gone are the structures of the workday and the school schedule. Gone are the usual rules and bedtimes. The outside world closes up shop and leaves us to our own devices.

When you are a child, snow turns the world into your playground. Where once there were only the familiar sights of your familiar world, there is now a vast, white expanse of possibilities. Like a blank canvas stretched out over real life, snow opens small imaginations to endless creations and adventures.

When you are a child, a snow bank becomes your noble charger, carrying you to battle on the field of war. It becomes a dragon, released from an icy spell and here to carry you into the cold, starry sky. It becomes a fort, a bunker, a castle, and the den of the mysterious ice bear – once king of the arctic, now a refugee who needs to be rescued and restored to his throne.

When you are a child, snow takes you back in time to a day when children ran amuck through the neighborhood. You meet in the streets to forge alliances and arrange expeditions. You trek up treacherous mountainsides, search for the legendary Yeti, and excavate frozen dinosaur bones. Sometimes, snow inspires creative domesticity and an afternoon is filled with the assembly and serving of snow sodas, pizzas, cupcakes, and stews.

When you are a grownup, there are few things more disruptive than snow. It changes plans, complicates your day, and adds dozens of items to your to-do list. It rips you away from your intentions, rerouting you according to Mother Nature’s whims and fancies. Gone are any extra minutes you might have had, filled now with hurried errands, last-minute preparations, and constant monitoring of the news and weather.

When you are a grownup, snow transforms your world into a dangerous obstacle course of closed roads, downed wires, and icy driving conditions. It cuts you off from the outside world and all its conveniences. It threatens to pluck you from the twenty-first century and deposit you in a past without electricity or modern communication devices.

When you are a grownup, snow is more of a bother than a wonder; but when you are a grownup with the eyes and heart of a child, snow still has the power to enchant. It quiets the world. Motors stop. Nature hushes. Even the voices in our heads cease their chattering. The usual expectations and obligations drop away as the flakes fall. For a little while, we are released from our regular responsibilities.

When you are a grownup with the imagination of a child, you can see snow’s reinvention of the world for what it is – a chance to step out of the ordinary into the fantastic, to experience delight, to contemplate the possibility of change. Even better, if you let your grownup imagination take flight, you may find that you don’t need the magic of snow to see the boundless opportunities you have for creativity and adventure. All you need is a willingness to see the world in a different way and the courage to go out in it and explore.


This piece was originally published in my Just a Minute column in my local paper, the charming Ipswich Chronicle.

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