My sixteen-year old daughter adjusts the visor, her eyes now shaded but the streaks of sunlight still washing the ends of her hair a burnished gold. Her hands grip ten and two, polish chipped from playing her guitar. She turns up Taylor Swift and she turns into our street. Taylor croons,
Can’t not think of all the cost
And the things that will be lost
Oh, can we just get a pause?
My breath catches, tears spring to my eyes. When did Izzie need to move the driver’s seat back? Were her legs always longer than mine?
It’s the start of summer but the end of an era.
My Leo soul waits all year for summer’s return. My true spirit emerges with the fireflies, with that particular ozone smell of the first June storm. But melancholy is for Labor Day, not the solstice. This year, summer has just arrived and I’m already grieving its eventual going away. Though the days are longer, they are over too quickly. The word solstice literally means standing still, but that’s an illusion. I feel the inexorable march of time, a pull to make memories before she drives off into an existence further from my reach, into days where I’m less needed.
Here’s what I know for sure. Time allows for magic if we allow for time. Summer is a season, but also a state of mind. We must make this summer memorable.
The ant was right. But so was the grasshopper. The ant decries all idleness, but to what end? Unless you’re the queen, most ants only live a few weeks. We should plan for the future, but also sing and dance and fiddle while the sun shines. I think of Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day, where she watches a grasshopper eat sugar from her hand.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass,
How to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
Which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Thinking towards the future has its place. At our weekly Family Meeting, I suggest everyone plan something this summer that is just for them; this feels especially important after having all of our plans cancelled during the quarantine. I book a weekend at Snug Hollow to write. David buys tickets to a heavy metal festival in London, Kentucky (Holler of Doom, which you can’t even say aloud without screaming and making the death metal salute). Izzie registers for a sewing camp, intent on finally learning to use a sewing machine. We buy fresh flowers every week for the kitchen. Buy a shade umbrella for the swinging chairs in the backyard. Try to make our haven our heaven. Make plans to make memories.
But plans only go so far. The truest moments happen spontaneously, cannot be mapped out or contrived by the diligent ant. We’re only promised the present moment, so why not accept the gift that it is? While the poor ant dies in a few short weeks, the life expectancy of a grasshopper is close to 90 days. A whole summer of life. This feels like a cosmic nudge to get busy living.
I do something new. I cancel clients and classes throughout the summer so that I have blocks of time every week with no plans at all. This was a huge step for this (hopefully recovering) workaholic. I hate disappointing my students as much as I like staying busy and making money. My mind is an ant, but my heart is a grasshopper.
Next summer Izzie will have both a license and a job, her first stab at living the ant life. So this season we shall grasshopper. Let this season be hammocks and books. Sundresses, sandals, and sunblock. Tomato sandwiches, sun tea, cold watermelon. Ice cream and movie dates and chlorine-drenched towels hanging on the banister. Long afternoons watching the Olympics, Izzie’s legs tangled in mine on the couch, Barkley on the floor to be closer to the AC vent. Let it be rainy day jigsaw puzzles and early morning hikes and staring up through the leaves of our catalpa tree. S’mores and strummed guitars around the fire pit.
And just maybe the grasshoppers will rub their legs together to play backup.