How Many Summers Left?

I do not love hot weather. I do not love intense humidity and stepping out into the outside world and feeling myself gasp. And, for better and for worse, I live in Washington D.C., where this is how it is in July and August.

On the other hand, my grandmother turned 90 years old this year. I hear that the summer right now in the Portland (Oregon) area is beautiful, and that she and the many people that I love there are really enjoying it. Savoring it.

One of my mantras is “Life is for Living.” Living, as fully as we can, as compared to surviving, or enduring. So I try to find ways to embrace experiences that I could all too easily grit my teeth and bear. So even though a part of me would love to hide out the hot days inside in the air-conditioning, we are going camping with friends this weekend. Outside.

Earlier this week I shifted my thinking about the summer from weeks and months to seasons. When I think about the summer as a whole season, I think about the way we yearn for it to come in the long nights of winter. I think about all the particular enjoyments of summertime — lemonade and long evenings, neighbors outside, thunderstorms, fireflies, ice cream.

Perhaps because of all the intense talk of mortality, racism, violence and death earlier this week, or perhaps because of thinking about my grandmother enjoying her 91st summer, I asked myself a question I can’t know the answer to, a simple question that is also hard to ask: “how many summers do I have left?”

I find this a powerful question. It makes me pause. I have no idea. I certainly have hopes for many, many more summers, in good health and with people I love and enjoy. But I don’t know. And just asking the question challenges me to notice what is special about this day, this week, and appreciate it. Asking the question propels me to treasure life, to savor the mess of camping gear piled up in our living room right now, to acknowledge my worries about heat and our family as indicators of how much I love these people and care about them. Seasons are big enough that really, in the arc of our lives, we don’t get to really savor all that many of them. And so I ask myself again: “How many more summers will there be, for me?” I hope there are many, even hot and humid ones.  We will come up with some fun and messy water games on this camping outing, I know it. We may well drive around in our air-conditioned car to get the baby to sleep in the 100 degree heat index, and if so, we will be grateful for our car, our modern convenience and our privilege to own it. And along the way we will be savoring our lives, grateful for another day, another hot and, yes, splendid season on this earth.

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