I am by the river when I notice it; a soft fragment of something in the air, floating gently down. I reach out to catch it in my hand, and when I open my fingers I see blackness streaked across them. The fire’s close enough for this sliver of ash to be carried here on the breeze. Drying off from my swim in the evening sun, I shiver. I hate summer.
You might not have forest fires near you, but there are probably other elements of the season you find challenging. The heat, or the insects, or the way it feels impossible to get anything done.
If you hate summer
I know that feeling. Even though I’m writing every day about the summer, living as mindfully as I can, searching for the parts I can love. (I wrote a whole ebook about savouring this season; you can get your copy here if you haven’t already.)
Yes, I love swimming in the river and eating fruit off the tree and wearing my favourite summer clothes.
And yet, there is a shadow side to summer. The side that leaves me sweaty and irritable. The hot choking feeling of being close to tears when I mislay something I was holding in my hands five minutes ago.
The way my thoughts can’t seem to settle; they drift in circles and scatter when I try to grab them. My bag fills up with scrappy post it notes on which I’m vainly trying to corral my energy and set direction. I reach the end of yet another day having socialised and napped and achieved what feels like absolutely nothing.
I am grubby and slightly sunburned and harrassed by mosquitoes. Everything gets greasy with suncream; glasses are dropped on stone paving; late nights leave me gasping for energy in the early morning.
The hens have stopped laying and the dogs are too hot to move and it’s all too much.
Wake me up when we get to Autumn.
Why summer hurts
Summer is a time of ripening and growing; in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Summer is the element of fire, of yang within yang: outward moving, active, hot.
The forest fires which plague Central Portugal are one manifestation of that yang energy getting out of control.
Other times that fire energy can go too far are in those moments of intense irritation and anger. In gatherings of people which spiral into arguments and even violence; in passion which borders on jealousy or obsession.
Ever had an argument with a loved one on holiday? You’ll remember that hot feeling of frustration, that frenzy of activity that boils into scorn.
The Celtic calendar celebrates summer with the festival of Lammas, marking the grain harvest. Here the goddess is celebrated in her fullness as earth-mother. For those of us who hunger for the active renewal of the Maiden, or the inward-turning wisdom of the crone, the mother energy can jar. This is a season about being not doing, in which we are not required to search or retreat, but to exist in glorious selfness, and to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
In a culture which values above all, productivity, and as seekers of meaning and growth, it is an uncomfortable feeling, to rest and stop. To allow things to grow at their own pace and to acknowledge that our striving doesn’t get us anywhere.
How to survive
There isn’t, of course, any way to avoid summer, and so if you resist it or find it challenging, it’s worth thinking about why that is.
1. Start by exploring summer’s lazy tendency. Are your feelings of self-worth caught up in how much you get done? Does the necessity of avoiding the heat mean you can spend less time doing? Think about what benefits there might be from slowing down.
2. Next, consider the element of control. My feelings about summer changed when I realised how much my resistance was rooted in a need to control my environment. Gatherings of people where alcohol is drunk and high spirits flourish leave me grappling for peace and quiet – and much of that is a craving to know what will happen in any given moment. If that resonates with you, think about how you can cultivate your ability to let go, and to allow life to unfold without intervention.
3. Finally, take solace from the one certainty: that this too shall pass. The days are already shortening and before we know it, Autumn will be here. Look towards the cooler months, but be careful not to wish your time away. We only have a certain number of summers; it’s worth seeking the things you can appreciate in them, else they’ll pass too quickly.
Want to savour summer?
I wrote an ebook to help you connect to this season’s energy and appreciate its moments of joy. It includes inspirational words and photos, ideas for practical rituals, and creative prompts to tap into your experience of summer.