Summer, and the Living Ain’t Easy

Summer has always been my least favorite season, so I was delighted to see an article on Salon.com last week with the blunt title Why I hate summer. The author, Rachel Shukert, shares painful memories of childhood summers spent at camp, where she encountered the “tyranny of enforced merrymaking,” and preferred to hide out in the infirmary, where she “…lay on a lumpy cot, reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel.” This made me laugh out loud; I saw myself in her description, and how weird I must have seemed at the time. Of course, at that age the pain was all too real, and the need to escape “enforced merrymaking” was all-consuming.

It didn’t matter where I spent the summer as a kid, at the lake, in the country, or simply at home, my nose was pretty much always in a book, and when forced outside, I preferred solitary pursuits (walking, swimming) to hanging out with cousins or siblings (although I loved them dearly). That made me a bit of an outsider, but it was the only way I could cope with all the activity going on around me. Plus, I just loved to read. For me, the best part of summer was the license I felt to devour as many books (or comics) as I wanted, sometimes encouraged by library summer reading programs. Forget tag or frisbee; my competitive spirit was best kindled by the challenge of reading as many books as I could during those eight precious weeks of freedom.

Now that I’m an adult, and have more control over my circumstances, I think I’m starting to make peace with summer. I still feel the pressure of “enforced merrymaking” that accompanies the warmer weather, but there are worse things in the world than spending long summer evenings sitting on a cafรƒยฉ terrace in Paris. Plus, I can now give myself permission to spend the entire day inside, beautiful weather or no, enjoying the comforts of a good book.

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5 Responses to “Summer, and the Living Ain’t Easy”

  1. Patti said:

    I will take your point to a different level and say that, as well as disliking summer because of the enforced socializing it often entails, I prefer any day, in any season, that allows me to stay indoors on my own without feeling guilty about it. Give me the snowstorms and the thunder-boomers and the tornado warnings and days that are just too hot and sticky to venture outside. Give me snot-freezingly cold days and high winds and blistering UV indexes. Give me days when people won’t look at me like I’m crazy to prefer indoor solitude, and spare me the words “what are you doing inside on a beautiful day like today??”

  2. David said:

    I agree with Patti, and add that in the Southern Hemisphere, when summer coincides with Christmas we get a double dose of merriment expectation. Just try and find a quiet place to gather your thoughts when everyone is running about from before dawn, high on chocolate and fizzy red drinks…

    At least I get some days in our winter when I can quietly reflect without everyone needing to drag me out.

    Also, recently and quite independently, I realised that a guilt-free day indoors is a true gem.

  3. spectatrix said:

    Patti:

    I’m with you on this; I especially like the cold days (or as you so colorfully put it, “snot-freezingly cold days”) because the weather adds to the isolation/cocooning effect and few people will argue that it’s better to be outside at that temperature!

    David:

    The kind of Christmas you describe would definitely put me on edge, as I find the holiday frenzy difficult enough to deal with when the days are short and chilly ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. James said:

    One of the reasons I like living in a walkable city like Wellington, NZ is that when I feel the need to get away I can just walk around for a few hours, in fact a walk from where I live into town is around two hours long. And being so close to the see and in the roaring forties the weather is almost always warm enough for a walk.

    And thankfully I never had to worry about Christmas down under to much as my family has alsways lived a fair distance from all our relatives. ๐Ÿ™‚ pheww. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. HonorGrace said:

    I’m so thrilled to find folks who understand the sheer pressure & guilt of sunshine/blue skies ect. I live in Seattle which despite creeping climate change is still a haven for the “outdoor impaired”– I love to garden, tho’– just inside a courtyard or a walled & well-hidden yard. The climate here is usually delightfully conducive to staying indoors & my natural red-headedness also gives me a great excuse to stay out of the sunshine & socializing. & I envy James your ability to stroll about the city. This area has really lovely parks and nooks, galleries, libraries & gorgeous views but I’m one who just can’t walk or bike in the daytime as it’s just too “public”- too exposed. I stroll in the evening or very early am & gave my bike to my son in law ages ago..I find summer just fine to watch from my window or from the edges of nighttime/dawn, knowing that soon it will be raining/snowing and all my neighbors will stop waving to me and snuggle up with a good book just as I have been doing all along…