The year is rolling gently along, when all of a sudden we are swept up in a whirlwind of graduations, weddings, outdoor concerts, day camps, and heat. This is the time of year when most of us let our hair down, slip into something more comfortable, and get together with our friends and family for lots of casual, outdoor entertainment. Here in the South, where things move slowly as a rule anyway, June, July, and August can seem like a study in inertia. We lounge under ceiling fans and sip iced tea and talk about the heat index.
Summertime also seems to be a period of wanderlust. We take family (or solo)
vacations and set off to drive across America or visit far off places in search
of adventure. Or, we just take some much needed time off to sit and watch the
For me, the summer season brings with it an urge to pare down. The entire house is swept clean and cleared of knickknacks and decorative objects. It is too hot to even look at anything that is not essential. Meals consist of fruits and vegetables - no more than two or three ingredients - or anything that does not need to be cooked. Even my journal gets simplified. I use only the basic tools (pen, notebook, and a few colored pencils) and rely more on pictures, photos, and clippings - the flotsam and jetsam of life - to tell my story.
In honor of summer, here are some things that you can do and questions you can ponder in the time between the fiestas and siestas. All are designed to help you enhance, appreciate, and savor this particular time of year, whether you are jetsetting around the globe or feeding the mosquitos at home.
- Record each day's high temperature and heat index. You're going to be talking about it anyway, so you may as well write it in your journal.
- Did you ever run through the sprinklers as a child? Write a paragraph or
two describing a time when you did this, complete with as many details as you
can remember. Did you wear a bathing suit or just t-shirt and shorts? Was
this a parent-sanctioned activity, or did you sneak and do it when the lawn was
- Make a visual study of a patch of flowers either in your own yard or at a
nearby park. Visit this patch at least once or twice a week (more often if you
can) and draw or paint it each time. You don't have to spend a lot of time
doing this, and in most cases, the less time spent, the better. Spend more of
your time "seeing" the blooms than re-creating them. Write the date and time
of day on each picture. Save all of your drawings, but don't look at them
again until the end of the summer. Be amazed by the results. Mother Nature is
never stagnant, even when we think she is.
- Ask each new person you meet this summer to draw something in your notebook. If they tell you that they can't draw, ask them to trace their hand or draw a stick figure. Everyone can do that. Be sure to get them to sign and date their drawing.
- What is your favorite summer fruit? Resist the urge to eat any of it until
it comes into its proper season. Then, select the ripest one you can find, sit
down in a quiet spot, and eat it. Savor the taste and smell; really pay
attention to what you are doing. When you are done, capture this experience in
words as best you can.
- Keep a "What I Did During Summer Vacation" journal/scrapbook. Start it on solstice day, the first day of summer, (around June 21) and end it at the Fall Equinox, the first day of fall (around Sept 23). If you go on a trip, each night before going to bed, select your favorite site/event/part of the day
and write about it. Tape postcards and photos into your journal. If you spend
the whole time eating bonbons and watching "Judge Judy", make a note of the
kinds of bonbons you eat and which ones taste the best. Write reviews of the
Judge Judy episodes and whether or not you agreed with her pronouncements. The
point is that no time is a waste of time. Enjoy your vacation and give
yourself a gift to remember it by.
- Grab a friend and a picnic basket and a set of watercolors.
Go somewhere where you will have a clear view of the sunset. When the sun is
just about to fade, take your watercolors and try to capture as much of that
sunset as you can. Sunsets are easy - there are no lines, no shapes, no forms
- just pure color. See how many of them you can re-create on paper.
- If you go on a guided tour of any sort, ask your docent or tour guide to autograph your brochure.
- Research and try several different summer beverage recipes. Record your
favorites in your journal. Make these recipes for friends and family. Write
your thoughts on nourishing the people you love in this way. Reflect on the
conversations and emotional exchanges that only a cool drink and a front porch
- Find rubber stamps, stencils, or clip art with sun motifs on them and use
these to create borders for your journal pages for the summer months. Or, you
could use stickers.
- Use a blank journal as a guest book at a wedding reception. Provide colored pencils and markers and let the guests write their best wishes to the bride and groom.
- Similarly, at a graduation party, let friends and relatives write words of wisdom for the new graduate.
- Go to a drive-in movie, especially if you've never been to one. Write
about the experience.
- In honor of Father's Day, list 25 things that you love about your dad.
- Pick a remote subject that you are interested in, and create your own
continuing education course. This can be as serious or exotic or mundane or
"fluffy" as you want it to be. Go to the library and get every book you can
find on the subject. See if a museum or cultural society or other organization
near you offers a worskshop or lecture about it. Choose a person from history
or even a modern day celebrity and find out everything you can about them.
- Plant something. You do not have to have a green thumb or spend a lot of energy. I tend to simply throw my seeds on the ground and wish them good luck. Try this and see what happens. Consider the tenacity of the plant kingdom. What can plants teach us?
- Log each time that you hear "Is it hot enough for ya?" or whatever your local variation is.
- Create your own summer reading program. Choose a theme and run with it. Decide that you will only read coffee table books or romance novels or books by authors whose names start with the letter Q. Or join a summer reading group at your local library or bookstore. Write reviews of the books in your journal. Describe the characters with whom you most identify. Write an alternative ending for the stories.
- Go to the movies as often as possible. Be sure to catch all of the big
budget blockbosters and escape into a world of stunts and special effects.
Make a collage with your ticket stubs and color copies of movie promos.
- Each day, jot down one aspect of summer that you enjoy.
- List your favorite ways to beat the heat.
- In Japan, the first day of June is clothes-changing day. Winter clothes are put away and government employees change into their summer uniforms. What is your summer uniform? What other cosmetic changes does the warmer weather dictate for you?
- Celebrate World Sauntering Day on June 19th. According to Blue Mountain Arts, this is "a day to revive the lost art of Victorian sauntering and to discourage jogging, lollygagging, sashaying, fast-walking, and trotting". Try to get through an entire day without sashaying! Write about your experience.
- Research and celebrate other obscure summer holidays.
- The summer season is supposed to be the most conducive for making wishes. List 25 things you wish for yourself.
- List 25 things you wish for the next two generations.
- List 25 things you wish for your mailman (lady).
- List 25 things you wish for your parents.
- List 25 things you wish for your best friend's pet.
- Do you have a t-shirt collection? Describe your favorites. When, where, and how did you get each one? List the funniest t-shirt slogans.
- How many pairs of flip-flops do you own? Take a picture of your collection.
- Decide on a theme for your summer. Make a soundtrack for it. Create a calendar of events. Each day, describe something that you did that fit into your theme.
- Make a list of summer anti-resolutions, things that you will not waste your precious vacation time on.
Summer journal collage courtesy of Purple Ink member Kari Lynn
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