Today is the third day of summer. Summer. That word is a paradox to me. On the one hand, it connotes a sort of freedom--freedom from the routine of the academic year, freedom from mental and physical confines of snow and ice, freedom from the routine and the mundane. But on the other hand, the flip-side of that freedom, resides obligation--obligation to feel free, to have fun, to be outside, to go, go, go!
Is it just me, or is that too much pressure?
Here's one of my many, many dirty little secrets. Ready? I'm not a fan of summer.
There. I said it. Go ahead--judge me.
But before you do, allow me a brief explanation. If you've known me for any length of time, you know a couple of things about me. I absolutely, positively refuse to go on (or near) roller coasters. If my mother's funeral were scheduled on the same day that U2 was performing nearby, I would legitamately have to think about it. And I absolutely, positively HATE hot weather. It's like my body simply shuts down. It says, "Nope, not in the contract." I literally cannot move. Or think. I can barely breathe. The years I spent living in North Carolina were among the most repressive in my entire life (physically as well as metaphorically). No, I do not like the heat.
Interestingly enough, I'm not a fan of extreme cold, either. Winters in Ohio were brutal--the steely cold that would stab you each time you stepped out against it. How the tiny hairs in your nostrils would instatntly freeze, how your eyes would water, and no matter how many blankets you piled upon your frigid bones, the warmth would never come. Bone-chilling, they call it. And it was. And I hated it.
This is why I like the Pacific Northwest so much. She's indecicive. She can't make up her mind. She's somewhere in-between. I like that in a place. She's a lot like me.
The photograph above is emblematic of early summers in the PNW. This photo was taken yesterday afternoon; it was 55 degrees. The (heated) pool was steaming. It was like a big bathtub. A womb. The children inside were doing what children do--flailing about, learning to use their bodies in a new way--a way that they have forgotten, but will eventually remember. We are born of water, and we will return to water. We are water.
I think that's part of why I love living in this corner of the world so much--why I MUST live here. Everything is reliant on water. It rains here. A lot. And when it doesn't, people worry. We talk about watersheds and water tables and water policy. We understand that water is integral to life. Our life. Here, where we live. This past week, I was fortunate enough to visit the North Cascades Institute, a learning center nestled deep within the North Cascades National Park, two hours from my home. While there, I was surrounded by water--the turquoise gleam of Ross Lake, the wide, winding Skagit River, and the waterfalls that feed them all:
When it's cold and misty outside, I have permission to stay in. I have permission to read, to write, to think. I have permission to linger in bed, reading with my girl, or just sleeping. I have permission to do the laundry, to wash the dishes, to tidy up. When it's sunny outside, I don't have that permission. The pressure to get out and DO things is too great (after all, the rain might move in again tomorrow, so get out now, now, NOW!). Forced outdoor activity. That doesn't always work for me. Don't get me wrong--I LOVE to be outdoors, but I just don't want to be obligated.
I'm not a fan of obligation.
I asked a friend yesterday what his perfect life scenario would be--place, job, partner, the works. He said simply, "To be free of obligation."
I think he's on to something.
I love my family. I love my work. Both provide structure and meaning in my life, and without either, I would be lost. But my GOD, the obligation of it all! Oh to be a trust-fund baby, to be able to jet off whenever and wherever I pleased. To not have a balance on my Visa. To be beholden to no one. Sounds equal parts scary and exhilerating!
Give me the in-between space.
In the meantime, I'll take my cold, misty June days. I'll linger in my bed and read and think and snuggle with my girl. Last night, we stayed up as late as the twilight, while she read some of her writing to me. My heart was literally bursting. Outside, the rain was pelting against the window pane.