A New Summertime
“Summertime, and the living is easy…” Well, maybe not quite as easy this summer.
In so many ways I love this time of year—the striking sunrises and warm still evenings, simpler clothing and simpler meals, the chance to garden, go kayaking and hiking, spend hours reading or just sitting watching waves and clouds and stars. Summertime is a time to relax and re-create and reflect, a time to be intentional about taking Sabbath moments and Sabbath days.
And yet in this particular summertime the easier living is laced through with threads of anxiety and filled with careful rules to follow. We feel regret over changed or circumscribed travel plans. We want things to be the way they were and sometimes chafe at restrictions.
I’m experiencing an odd sort of dichotomy this summer. On one hand, these days seem the same as those of previous years: the sun shines, fishing boats go out, children play in water parks, paddle-boarders stroke by on the sea in front of my house, and my veranda is a profusion of blooms. It is sometimes quite easy to forget for a moment that we are living in a pandemic.
And then I remember, and this remembering brings a sense of unease: should I have had that friend come to stay overnight? When should I be wearing a mask? I keep struggling with the process of letting go of the past and the way summertime was and moving into the present of the way things are.
Mardi Tindal, a former moderator of the United Church of Canada, introduced me to the word “ecotone” a while ago. Ecotones are transition places, where one type of landscape meets another. The word was coined from a combination of “eco” (environment, natural habitat) plus “tone,” from the Greek “tonos,” or tension—in other words, a meeting place where ecologies are in tension. For example, a heavily treed area giving way to the open escarpments of rocks.
So maybe we are living in a type of sociological ecotone, a meeting place of tension and transition, from a way of living that focused on the market place and economic growth to a way of living that focuses on essential and life-giving work; from a society that often focused on individual needs and wants to one that is kind and careful for the sake of others.
Transition times offer opportunities for new insight, new wisdom. So instead of just mourning the losses I’m experiencing these past months, I am trying to appreciate this summer as a kind of intentional retreat time, time to ponder, to read, to talk with friends about things that matter. And in the quiet of a less busy summer I am trying to open myself to the sacredness that surrounds us.
In her book An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor says, “We live in the world which is just waiting for us to notice the holiness in it.” Let’s make this the summer when we take the time to notice, when we make ourselves vulnerable to beauty, when we search for new ways to connect in life-giving ways.