For the week of July 8 thru July 14, 1998  

When the living is easy

Commentary by JoEllen Collins

The smell of freshly cut grass mixes with the far off pocketa-pocketa of the mowers. Blessed sun warms my face as I walk by a splash of wildflowers edging Elkhorn golf course. My heart fills with long-awaited summer.

I feel a bit like the children in Ray Bradbury’s tale of life in a colony on Mars, where it rains all the time. Torrential downpours are absent only one afternoon every seven years. During this brief moment the children are released from the bubble dome housing them to turn their faces up to the blessed sun. (The story has a sad twist when, in thoughtless cruelty, the children lock a classmate in the closet while they enjoy the sun. Because they have never known the sun’s magic, they are not aware until the rain starts again of their hideous act.)

Bradbury’s story has a point, of course. What if we were to be denied such a daily pleasure? We often forget to treasure those things we have. We take things for granted. I’ve developed a keen sense of gratitude for good weather; I’ve written about it before. Still, I couldn’t help but think of that story when summer finally came to our town last week.

Personally, I believe that griping about the weather is a futile activity; it’s certainly a force we cannot change. And yet, and yet, the summer of my soul is jumping with delight.

When I lived in Santa Monica, I just accepted sunny days as the norm. Moving to Idaho 15 years ago presented me with the thrills and challenges of changing seasons. I think we all have our favorites. Hemingway’s, I’m told, was the fall. Avid skiers may leap at the first snowflakes, and gardening enthusiasts exult over spring’s emerging tulips. I, however, still crave the sun and warmth of summer. I am happiest barefoot.

One of the frustrations of summer life here is the need to feel that one has to pack everything in a short couple of months. The very brevity of the season makes our appreciation of those days more intense. Many of us have pondered the hypothetical question of how we would spend our time if we knew this was our last day on earth. I feel that way about the transient summer.

As I write this it is the beginning of July. Labor Day is a scant eight weeks away, and I will feel a compulsion to do everything I can possibly do to savor these fleeting weeks.

My calendar is already crowded with saved evenings for musical events. When I listen to the absolutely magical voice of Diane Schur I will recall hearing Ella sing at Los Angeles’s Greek Theater, and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony (free, mind you) will give me once again that connection to the beauty of sound that warms my heart.

Add to those events the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival and a variety of rich local theater presentations, and I still won’t have scratched the surface. How can I possibly attend Gallery Walks, ice shows, rodeos, visiting lectures, antique and craft shows, poetry slams and everything else I’d like to do in just eight weeks?

I haven’t even yet mentioned my lengthy summer reading list. This is supposed to be the time "when the living is easy," and I finally have hours to tackle the pile of books by my bed. And what a time to entertain with barbecues or enjoy al fresco dining in the fresh evening breezes of our valley.

Thank heavens I don’t ride horses. It’s enough that I want to take my dogs everywhere and treat them and myself to the joys of the endless walks and trails around. I’ve promised myself afternoons after work at nearby lakes: why shouldn’t I read one of my books overlooking Alturas Lake, for example?

I’m aware as I write this that I’m missing the mention of many activities that I could enjoy (if I spent an appropriate amount of time with them) and that others may find essential to this season: Roller-Blading and bicycling are examples that come to mind. Just today I debated tennis lessons and swimming as two activities I’d like to schedule in.

I’m glad I have a cornucopia of choices, but this summer smorgasbord is almost too lavish! The term "an embarrassment of riches" comes to mind.

So here I am, ready to relax and smell the summer roses, and yet I’m rushing to do so. Am I the only one who is so afflicted? I’m reminded of Cole Porter’s immortal song, "It Was Just One of Those Things." In my mad dash toward summer pleasure, I recall his lines, "It was too hot not to cool down." Porter speaks for me. Like a short but passionate romance, my love affair with summer will cool down all too soon.

I once embroidered a motto on a pillow. It was a line by e.e. cummings: "Nothing beautiful ever hurries." If that’s true, I’m going to be pretty ugly this summer!


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