about bliss

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

daily bliss: summer time

"That's how summer is: no past or future but all present tense, long twilights like vandals, breaking into new days. Yet it's the briefest of seasons, and what time there is in summer is carried forward by wind, by Boreas, god of the north wind, who, it's said, can blow out of two or more cheeks at once." Gretel Ehrlich, "Summer"

I'm a young girl, about ten or eleven. It's summer, the days stretching on forever, the soft, warm evenings casting an enchanting spell, and it seems the moment will never end. I'm helping my Dad plant many, many pine trees behind our house. We're sticking them into the beach sand, blown the two mile distance from Lake Michigan shores over ages, a glacial pace that only the land remembers.

These nights, and my afternoons outdoors, are a tonic to my fiction consumed self--I would read all day if I was allowed to, but my Mom, in her infinite wisdom, insists I leave the books and the interior world indoors. I head outdoors, twirling a baton, riding my bike up and down our driveway, and turning cartwheel after cartwheel, imagining an adoring audience, still spinning narratives in my head.

Some evenings we head to Lake Michigan, where we brave the cool water for the pure pleasure found in undulating waves. I lift my hands and jump through the surf, or my Dad pulls me over the waves in an inflatable boat as my Mom and baby brother wait on shore, dripping muddy sand castles.

When the sun finally sets and I head to bed, exhausted and sun drenched, sleep comes quickly and untroubled.

"The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace." Kate Chopin, The Awakening

I'm in high school, and then college, and Lake Michigan keeps pulling me towards the sandy shores, whether at our local beach or far away up North at H's parents' place. Early mornings, bright daytime, or twilight, I follow the contours where water ebbs, picking a path that flirts with the cool water, testing one toe, one foot at a time. I feel rocks slick under my feet. I feel worries dissolve. I feel answers and possibilities beckoning just beyond my sight. I know, somehow, though I haven't yet encountered the quote by Lao Tzu, that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

"The present is the wave that explodes over my head, flinging the air with particles at the height of its breathless unroll; it is the live water and light that bears from undisclosed sources the freshest news, renewed and renewing world without end." Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

During late June, in the days surrounding the solstice, time stretches, as the daylight shimmers seemingly endlessly. Each day seems full of boundless possibility, and once again, I debate how to spend the unfurling moments. I could read an entire novel in one lazy afternoon: reclined on my couch, a cool glass of iced tea by my side, classical music lilting from the stereo, and an exquisite view of Lake Michigan sparkling a few blocks away. Then again, I could spend it in the kitchen, cooking batch after batch of strawberry jam I'll enjoy on the short days of the long, far away winter to come.

More often than not, though, I head outside, a glint of sunshine and a gentle breeze luring me to the deck, where I might read, write, or simply daydream the afternoon away.

On rare days, with the right company, I lose all sense of time and space, caught in the present: following the thread(s) of a meandering conversation set against the soundtrack of waves crashing against the shore, sea gulls cawing, and intermittent laughter; absorbing the sun's insistent rays, mindless of the spreading pinkness across my arms and legs and nose; forgetting to eat dinner, as I watch the color and light slowly fade from the sky, as day turns into night, and the horizon between lake and sky disappears.

"One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea." Anne Morrow Lindberg, Gift From the Sea


  1. Anonymous12:31 PM

    I love your ode to summer! It's my favorite time of year.

  2. This really takes me back to my days growing up on Lake Michigan - although, I was up in Northern Michigan. But I can't tell you how many years of my life were spent rolling around in dunes. You really do start to see the entire world differently when you're there. It's magical and different.

    And by the way - the Solace of Open Spaces is probably one of the best books I've ever read. Love Gretel.

  3. You forget to eat?? I didn't even think that was possible! (for me, I mean.)

    Well...I suppose maybe, with the right company.

    This is kind of a brilliantly fantastical post, dharmagirl. :)

  4. it's my fave time of year too, pinkstripes!

    where in northern michigan, macduff?!? the leelanau peninsula/traverse city area is quite possibly my favorite place in the world. i too *love* the solace of open spaces--i don't own it but have read it repeatedly.

    "brilliantly fantastical"--that's just super swell, gregg:)