Summer’s Only Half Over

Welcome to the middle of summer. It feels more nearly the end of summer, you say?
If you have young children, or you work every day with young children, or you’re a school-age child yourself, you’re excused. But otherwise, it’s past time for you to recalibrate your expectations and enjoy the best part of summer, which is still ahead.
I know commerce is blaring in your ear that summer is quickly ending. Those back-to-school sales are designed to be irresistible, even to those not going back to school. Don’t be fooled.
Look up. Blues skies mostly will continue for another calendar month. September comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lamb, with a few lionish days in between. It won’t be until sometime in October that our wintry grayscape will return.
2009 gave us the longest cultural summer of our lives. Memorial Day came as early as it could and the Labor Day waited until the last possible moment, giving us a traditional summer of 108 days. This year’s stretch between those holidays is closer to its normal length at 101 days, so it’s only fair that you grab an extra week. But as long as you’re grabbing that extra week, why not take a month?
I’m not suggesting you take a vacation — those can be hard work. I’m suggesting you lighten your steps a bit between your appointed rounds. If you feel guilty taking an extra month of summertime, think back and remember our June gloom. You didn’t get your fair share of sunshine in June, so you have it coming to you still. Enjoy it.
Eugene Celebration’s bad luck notwithstanding, here in the southern Willamette Valley, September weather usually betters June’s. Once the younger set has plunged back into their school routine, the beaches and bike paths are much less crowded. For those of us with childrearing (mostly) behind us, the best of summer is right around the corner.
I’m not surprised that you need help to recognize the middle of summer. Middles almost always go unnoticed. Our culture is deeply captivated by beginnings and endings. Newspapers are partly to blame. Birth and death announcements are free, but coverage of everything in between is less than guaranteed.
We naturally prefer the lines that are more clearly drawn. Who ever knows when they’ve reached the midpoint of anything? Except you, today, here, right in the middle of a glorious Oregon summer.
How will you spend it?
On this point, I defer to retired South Eugene High School teacher, arts advocate and occasional civic activist Laurel Fisher. She has convinced me that our strident tone and self-important stride might be remedied with three simple words: Read More Fiction.
You don’t have to go to the beach to give yourself permission to read a beach book. For a month of your life, try not to better yourself. Relax. Pick up a page-turner. Indulge some guilty pleasure, but skip the guilt. Save the self-help tome for another season. Promise yourself to be content — if only for a few weeks — with the world and your life and yourself, just the way they are.
Sure, the world needs improving. The planet is careening toward ecological disaster! Your cell phone is giving you brain cancer! Antibiotics are losing the battle against biotics! Life as we know it is disappearing! October is soon enough to be spooked by all that.
Fiction can immerse you in a different world. Fiction makes no effort to keep its facts straight. Whether it’s J.K. Rowling’s Quidditch matches or G.K. Chesterton’s “Man Who Was Thursday,” gravity needn’t apply. Lack of gravity can work as levity. You will be lightened, if not enlightened, by spending imaginary time Elsewhere.
That escape can be helpful. When you return, the real world will be waiting, mostly in the condition that you left it. But you will be refreshed, better able to see and do the improving that it requires.
Balancing checkbooks and rotating tires can be tackled the same way flashcards and multiplication tables once were.
It’s time to relearn this lesson: it’s good to be rested, at least once a year. And it’s not too late. Summer’s only half over.
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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a weekly column for The Register-Guard and blogs.