Summertime: The magic of activities

Summer is the cruellest season[1]. The time of scratched knees and bruised elbows, sunburn, mosquito bites, and rash from brushing against stinging nettles; the time of couples, friends, and families squabbling over holiday destinations, over choices of rented rooms, foreign foods, and beaches (or mountains), and over what everyone wanted but never got (which is all the others’ fault, of course); the time of existential angst as every perfect moment bites off another mouthful of the remaining halcyon days[2], the end of which is as predictable as the outcome of a tarot reading[3].

And then, of course, summer is endless bliss[4]. Touching tree bark, dry meadows, and wet sands with naked feet; tasting berries (rasp-, straw-, blue-, and all the others) and ice-cream; smelling freshly mowed grass, and the fragrant traces of sun rays on sweaty skin; hearing birds chirping, thunder growling, and summer rain gushing against tarpaulin; watching seagulls land on frothy waves, moon beams glitter on polished lakes, stars pirouette through seas and skies. An orgy of sensual impressions, masterfully composed to make us savour that perfect moment in its timeless impermanence[5].

Regardless of cruelty or bliss, however, summer is also the weirdest time when it comes to action and activities. Most of us, as we take time off and go on vacation, step out of our habitual ways of doing (or not doing) things, with the – sometimes more, sometimes less – deliberate desire to do different things (or not do certain other things), or do things differently (or not fall into the trap of doing things in certain ways)[6]. How so? And what to do with that longing so that it bears fruit[7]?

Firstly, there’s the desire to calm down. Breathe out. Relax our bodies from their usual hustling, hunching, and hoovering around. Lying on beaches, lounging in deck chairs, walking through woods, running across meadows, flying past mountaintops, clouds, and rainbow connections. Soothing all irritations, concerns, worries, and tensions of our other, non-summer lives until they evaporate into the blue. Resting our minds, rinsing our thoughts as light summer rains wash them to trickles of faded colours[8].

Then, there’s the desire to comfort ourselves. Breathe in. Pamper our bodies by feeding them well[9]. Indulging our senses in the icy coolness of ocean waves in the morning, the fiery heat of the midday sun, the silky warmth of an evening breeze; music we finally have the leisure to hear, movies we finally have the time to watch; riding horses and bikes, swimming in lakes, rivers, and seas, hitting balls with rackets, clubs, or naked hands; losing ourselves in the vastness of endless horizons and in the depths of novels the page numbers of which exceed the heights of Mount Everest. Fuelling our minds with experiences, charging our thoughts with the sparks of new ideas[10].

Later, when we’re a little rested and a little spoiled, comes the desire to engage. Hold our breaths. Looking for the thrill of climbing trees, rocky slopes, or steep cliffs, searching the excitement of casual acquaintances, seasonal romances, heart-breaking once-in-a-lifetime love stories, flirting with the appeal of making radical changes to what we do, how we live, who we are, making promises to ourselves, to others, and to the universe about what will be different from now on, beyond the known boundaries of sky and earth[11]. Enticing our minds into new places, new connections, and new spheres, luring our thoughts into legends large-than-life[12].

Finally, there are times, few and far between, when the only remaining desire is the desire to break free. Never to breathe again. The dream of getting rid of all that holds us back, shedding the heaviness of our bodies and limbs, breaking the shells of sensations, emotions, obsessions, and addictions, dismantling the structures of our perceptions, conceptions, illusions, and hallucinations, leaving nothing behind but a state of perpetual comfort and ease[13]. Pulverising our minds into indistinguishable space, grinding our thoughts into minute dots[14].

In all this, most of the time, what we do (or don’t do) and how we do it are just subtle variations on our usual ways of living our lives, summer-selves only marginally rebellious against our non-summer selves, brief encounters with our amazing abilities for transformation with almost no lasting imprints on our being. Sometimes, however, we can be lucky. Sometimes, the sun, the stars, and the heavens align, and life becomes easy. Fish are jumping, butterflies dawdle, and the cotton is high. We are newly born from the richness of experience and from the beauty of knowing. There’s profound joy, and there’s an end to tears, pain, and suffering. We arise like a song, like a dance, spread our wings and take the sky. And until that happens, if we stay close to what we experience and how we experience it, it can also be okay. It’s almost as if nothing can harm us. And there’s no need to cry[15].

Have a good summer!

[1] You’re welcome to disagree, regardless of whether you ever won a Nobel Prize in Literature (or any other discipline). Also, I owe apologies to all those who are not familiar with (Northern) European summers, as the following thoughts are heavily influenced by the particular flavours of summers in this particular region. Summers in other places are different, and they would deserve different reflections that, unfortunately, are way beyond my stuttering imagination.BACK TO TEXT

[2] This heartbreak of summer has been the topic of so many songs – at least as many as the happy-go-lucky summer songs from all the ice-cream commercials. Some of my favourites are the timeless “Temps des Cerises” (for example here [retrieved Aug 3, 2015]), a-ha’s “Summer moved on” (here [retrieved Aug 3, 2015]), Abba’s “Our last summer” (the version from “Mamma Mia” is here [retrieved Aug 3, 2015] – I prefer the original version, but couldn’t find it online), or Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” (for example here [retrieved Aug 8, 2015]). Maybe it’s no accident that two of these are originally written and performed by Scandinavian musicians.BACK TO TEXT

[3] For the best tarot reading ever, get in touch with Louise. Her readings are astonishing, and she’s a true professional at heart. You find her here [retrieved Aug 3, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[4] Unsurpassed in this illustration [retrieved Aug 3, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[5] And, of course, to remind us of the inescapable existential angst inevitably intertwined with its perfection, see above note [2].BACK TO TEXT

[6] The longing that comes with this desire is artfully described here [retrieved Aug 8, 2015]. Or, on a less serious note, here [retrieved Aug 8, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[7] Yes, this is intentionally vague. If it bothers you, replace “bear fruit” with a specific desirable outcome of summer time of your personal choice.BACK TO TEXT

[8] For reasons I haven’t fully researched yet, the feeling of calm and ease is often reflected in songs about summer rain. For example by Johnny Rivers here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015], by Carl Thomas here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015], or by Belinda Carlisle here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[9] Which, of course, is a painfully subjective measure that might translate into loads of carbohydrates, tons of grilled meat, and huge quantities of local beer and imported wines as well as into bowlfuls of salads, platefuls of cheeses, freshly picked fruit, and huge quantities of sparkling water and iced peppermint-ginger tea.BACK TO TEXT

[10] Resulting in the fluttering, flickering, flimsy euphoria that sometimes can be created by overexposure to blazing lights, high quality alcohol, or other legal stimulants – see the interpretations by The Cave Singers here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015] or by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[11] There are some similarities here with the typical New Year’s Resolutions. At least with regard to the likelihood of realisation once summer is over (or come January 2nd). There are also differences, as summer promises tend to be lighter, softer, and more playful. I promise to write a blog post on promises at some point.BACK TO TEXT

[12] Like, for example, in the rendition by Calvin Harris here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015] or this one (misleadingly called “Summer Sadness”) by Lana Del Rey here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[13] With a deep bow to the 14th century master Longchen Rabjam, and, more accessible in our place and time, the corresponding commentary by the 14th Dalai Lama, published as “Mind in Comfort and Ease” (2012).BACK TO TEXT

[14] Which could sound like this: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015] or this: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

[15] Yes, this is it. There’s no need to look further or change anything. Listen here: [retrieved Aug 8, 2015].BACK TO TEXT

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