Hi all~ Some of the best memories I have of being a kid are from all of the freedom that came from empty summer days. Wandering around the neighborhood, time wasn’t measured by a clock but by the streetlights that told us when to return home. Ordinary days were made precious by the absence of agenda. Here’s a little reminder to schedule a few days like that for yourself this summer! ~ Love, Lara
While trying not to get killed by drivers who are such avid readers that they peruse their cell phones at 70 miles per hour on the highway, a patch of weeds caught my eye. Tall Y-shaped weeds with black pepper-like seeds that flourish on overgrown lawns overwhelmed me with a surprise rush of nostalgia.
I’m not sure why weeds invoke memories of my childhood but suddenly I longed for the hot summer days of emptiness that I associate with neglected turf. It hardly seemed like anything worth missing, yet neither did all the ordinary moments of youth which were more notable for their familiarity than anything fantastic.
There was something about the monotony of long days without schedules or supervision that captured time. For us children, it was ours. All of it. In the long stretches of daylight that marked the summer season, time stopped being a series of moments or a rhythm of routines. Time stopped being a watched clock; a metric of accomplishment. It ceased to be a threat that marked life’s passing. Time was merely vast space where we grew in communion with the weeds unperturbed and oblivious to expectations or the flamboyance of the flower. We didn’t need to be more and we didn’t need to have more.
Summer was a time when sticks were treasured for their versatility and a shallow stream or puddle of rainwater had no depth to the ways it could entertain us. The inevitability of stepping in ant beds and skinning knees; the passions of play; and the pangs of hunger from being so engrossed in imagination that we merely forgot to eat; all felt quite unremarkable. Boredom was a great inventor and the unstructured hours of empty days made it possible to create anything.
There was so much of everything in those days of nothing. Of course, I didn’t know that then.
All of it feels like such a stark contrast to life now where information whizzes at us faster than the cars on the highway; where we get pinged with reminders of where to be and what to do; where we are pestered by the constancy of trying to maximize time; of somehow trying to immortalize it with the vanity of accomplishments.
In that moment, the humility of the highway weed seemed less like a nuisance to eradicate and more of an invitation to ease my growing resentment of time. I acknowledged the ways I sometimes begrudge its toll on my aging body instead of feeling gratitude for the continued gift of life. It made me realize how much I lament time’s passing instead of languishing in the many gifts of the moment. Best of all, it reminded me that when we stop striving to fill time with tasks that we deem noteworthy, we can empty ourselves of the expectations and judgment that keep us enslaved to busyness; that keep us distracted from the glory of an ordinary moment.
The solstice marks the astronomical start of summer and the longest day of the year. It originates from the Latin words sol for “sun” and sistere for “to stand still.” When I was a child, time stood still and in the vast emptiness of that space, time wasn’t the enemy. It wasn’t something I needed to master or outrun. It wasn’t something I had to fill to prove my value or something I was trying to erase as it reconfigured my body. It was just stillness – both an untamed lawn to run through and a roadside weed that reminds me that no matter how old we get slowing down helps us to grow.