Small Summer Beauty
Sweat collects the dirt on my arms and gathers it in the nooks of my inner elbows. My shoulders ache and my muscles are tight from an hour of working the heavy bag in my buddy’s basement. It’s hot, but we’re prepared. Busting out the door into the yard we dump all unnecessary clothes. Two inflatable kiddy pools lie in gentle promise, filled with water from the garden hose, which seems to be governed under its own principles of freezing. My muscles get tighter as I plunge as flat as I can to get the entirety of my body under the shallow foot of water. Exhilaration, and then the sweet sweet relief of being cool for the first time in days. We lie in the kiddy pools, legs straddled over the side, heads resting on the inflated wall, a six-pack strategically placed between us. A breeze picks up. Leaves twist and play in the currents, flashing from silver underside to green topside, creating a playful shimmer that follows the path of the breeze. How do you capture this?
This is summer.
With summer comes John Travolta’s greased hair, relatives, grilled food, and the green promise that the world could be good again. And so too a particular chaos that comes with the desire of summer. Beauty and warmth entice with the possibility of the outdoors, and the number of events and family plans increase exponentially. Event calendars tap into the insatiable thirst for restoration, which summer wets with thunderstorms and growing things. On the other hand, summer presents a new wealth of time—vacuous, infinite, unending time. A sort of debilitation follows in the crushing wealth of possibility. The summer joy can be swept up into the tedium of activity (the devil is in the details, as they say.)
But the exquisite, restorative nature of summer is in the small moments of beauty.
After finishing our work in the large English garden, bathed in rich soil and sweating under our straw hats, my friend and I hop on the back of the Honda CB 500. It’s Friday and we’re taking an early lunch. With swim trunks and helmets, we ride the motorcycle, which shakes and grumbles like only old motorcycles can, down to the river that runs north of town. There’s nothing in my pockets and lunch in my bag as we climb down the hill to the inlet, walk its freezing waters (it flows from an actual ice cave) to where it meets the Little Spokane. Here, the inlet and river make a secret swimming hole. It is a race to see who can jump in first with the self-awareness of boys vying to prove themselves. The water only runs waist deep, so we sit on the mossy bed, water up to our shoulders, and feel the cool wash over us.
On a Saturday, we bust out the old baseball gloves, weathered white with time. The clap of stitches hitting tired leather creates a methodic rhythm. Tossing the ball back and forth, we think of summer holidays when backyards felt big enough for a kingdom. Playing a simple game of catch, we are aware of the simple, almost mundane, nature of the act. But it is that very simplicity which draws us to center ourselves on the moment, on our time under the sun.
Summer is haunting.
In the dark days of winter, holed up inside, my mind turns to dreaming of days at the lake or on the river. Dreaming of sharing meals with people I love. Dreaming of laughter and adventure. In allowing myself to dream of summer, what I am actually dreaming of and longing for is the Kingdom of God. So when summer finally rolls around, some part of my heart cannot help but be disappointed, because it cannot be the Kingdom in its entirety, not yet. And yet, in the small, simple joys of summer, a bit of eternity is allowed to show its face.