Seasons of the Soul
Savoring Summer's Sweet Slowness
"The summer night is like a perfection of thought."
"What is summer's sweetness / but an invitation to respond?"
My husband's and my work schedules run on the academic year, which means that we work quite hard from fall through spring, but then summer opens up like a lavish gift before us. I am finding these summer days I have been resistant even to the writing that I love so much, craving more silence and rest. and so as I sit down to write this reflection I am drawn toward simplicity, fewer words, more savoring of the spaces between them.
Being a monk in the world means for me to live slowly in a fast-paced culture, to treasure the gift of "being" in a world that says my value comes from "doing," to linger over life's moments and recognize that what I seek most deeply is already here waiting to be revealed.
Summer calls me to relish the gifts of slowness, attention, and wonder. The season immerses me in the sacramental imagination—the recognition that everything is holy, everything shimmers with the sacred presence if we only slow down enough to see.
Let's celebrate summer's gifts with a list of some things that should be done s-l-o-w-l-y:
- Taking a long swim in the open water, feeling the stretch of your muscles.
- Eating fresh sweet berries and peaches letting the juice drip down your chin and fingers.
- Cooking a meal with complete loving attention to each chop, sprinkle, and stir.
- Napping in a patch of sunlight.
- Hiking deep in the emerald woods.
- Ordering a soft-serve cone from the ice cream truck and giggling as it melts down your hand.
- Buy yourself a bouquet of peonies or sunflowers at the farmer's market.
- Listening to the rhythms of the ocean until you discover your own heartbeat hidden there.
- Rubbing a dog's belly.
- Rolling in the grass.
- Letting a piece of music wash over you and knit itself into your being until you find yourself dancing.
- Listening. To a friend, a spouse, a stranger. To silence, to the holy presence.
- Making love and being loved. Treasuring the sacred gift of touch.
- Gazing upon a work of art or a sunset and really seeing it. Gazing upon a loved one and really seeing them.
- Transformation: The long slow process of becoming who we really are.
- Breathing. In. Out. In. Out.
- Grieving. Experiencing the fullness of sorrow and loss.
- Basking in gratitude for the simple joys of each day.
- Lingering under the bone-white face of the moon as she blesses the night.
- Allowing at least one moment each day when you release doing and simply are. to
Consider making a list of the summer gifts you love and then letting your summer practice be to enjoy one slowly each day. What are the things worth savoring? What might happen if you slowed down enough to hear deeply the God who speaks in sheer silence? What is being whispered to you there?
May each of your journeys unfold with a thousand delightful surprises these summer days. May the sun bring you the gift of illumination. May the sweetness of summer elicit a long sigh of surrender from the deepest places of your being.
Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D., is a Benedictine Oblate and the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery without walls offering online classes and resources in contemplative practice and creative expression. She is the author of seven books on monastic spirituality and creativity including The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (Ave Maria Press), Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings (SkyLight Paths), and Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice (forthcoming 2013 from Ave Maria Press). Christine earned her Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and her work focuses on the intersection of the arts, contemplative spirituality and practice, and the wisdom of the seasons. Visit her website Abbey of the Arts.