By Candace Echols
The British use the word “summer” as a verb.
‘Round about this time of year, British women might ask their friends where they are headed on holiday (Summer break counts as a holiday for them). Their British friends may respond with something like, “We ah planning to summeh in Sussex this ye-ah.”
That is so very different from, “SCHOOOOOOL’S OUT. FOR. SUM-MER!” How the two countries have ever been related is sometimes hard to imagine. But that’s beside the point.
Anyway, I have always wanted to use the word ‘summer’ as a verb, but I have rarely been anywhere long enough to honestly call it that. “We are headed to the beach the first week of June,” fits better. Or maybe “We’re going to Pickwick for Memorial Day.” As much as I love Pickwick—and as much as the concept actually fits—you just can’t throw ‘summer’ as a verb into a sentence alongside ‘Pickwick’ and ask it to dance. Doesn’t work.
Summering hints at intentional rest. Not the kind of rest that’s found in napping, although napping is certainly not excluded. It suggests however a rest that is found in returning to childlike play. Those three letters, -ing, thrown onto the back of such a familiar word—ahh summering—paint a picture of sailing on an 80-degree day, a too-big t-shirt with horizontal navy and white stripes whipping in the wind over bathing suits. Hopping in and out of the water when the gusts die down. Summering hints at cruiser bicycles and picnics with no place to be. I smell gardens in places low in humidity, so that the flowers’ fragrance wafts. Everywhere. It’s almost always breezy when someone is summering, except in the very early mornings, when even nature hushes to encourage a lie-in (that’s British for sleeping late).
The whole world needs the verb summering right now.
At least, I do. I’ve just gotten over my first case of shingles. I’m a healthy 42-year-old. I recently ran a 10K race. Shingles is sometimes connected to stress. I thought I was holding it together pretty well, but my body has betrayed me. Apparently, as it turns out, I am weaker than I thought.
Not everyone has physical manifestations of having lived through this pandemic, but I will say my hair stylist casually mentioned that the city-wide graying has been almost unmanageable. My dentist said that, pre-COVID, he would create mouth guards for people once or twice a week, but the nighttime tooth-grinding has gotten so bad that they are steadily pumping out plastic guards two to three times per day now. Even my counselor mentioned that the counselors themselves are edgy.
People, we need to summer.
We need that -ing. We need minds that approach the warmer months with an intentionality that asks what is going to feed the soul. Warning: it will likely not include a digital screen. That’s hard for me. I’m staring at a screen as I type this column, and I’ve checked my phone three times since I started. I suspect, though, that we will never be truly re-created the way we are desperate for until we socially distance from our screens to some degree. But that’s just a start—a means to an end. It’s not the goal by any stretch.
Active rest is what we are going for, the kind of active rest that restores us to some better version of ourselves, a version that sleeps without grinding teeth, for starters. A version our minds remember from before we were grown. This concept of restorative rest isn’t novel. It’s been woven into the fabric of time since the first calendar ticked off days. Actually, God himself rested.
The Bible tells us in Genesis (which also means “the origin”), “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” God called rest holy, which is another word for sacred.
Rest is sacred.
We need it desperately as human beings, and maybe now more than ever. We Americans act like we are allergic to rest. It’s offensive somehow, like a sign of weakness. Of old age. Or maybe it sounds like a synonym for boredom. Or irrelevance. If you have time for rest, it’s probably because nobody needs you anymore. You’re not in demand.
I have five children ages 13 and under. People need me. And I, I need rest. So, I have decided to summer. As a verb. We are going to summer with great intentionality this year. We are going to pursue—even the adults—playing like children in the wild yonder. We will jump in the water with reckless abandon, even if it’s cold. We will pay attention to the fresh breeze blowing through our hair and run barefoot through the grass.
We will play “This Magic Moment” when we cross the bridge that leads to the sand, because the beach is always magical. We will eat foods we’ve never tried before and extend unguarded kindness to strangers the way 2-year-olds do. We will steady ourselves in a canoe, but if it tips, it tips! We will laugh and dance and tell stories around a fire. We will find constellations and catch our own flying stars in Ball jars.
We will stay up late some nights and sleep outside. We will get up early on other mornings because sunrises are mercies and should be experienced. We will sit in window seats and read while rain falls, until we feel like stopping. We will swing and hug and cuddle under covers, skin-to-skin and life-to-life.
We will live anew, and we will be healed because of rest. God called it sacred.
I call it summering.
1. Genesis 2:2-3
StoryBoard features “The Yellow Chair ChronEchols” by writer Candace Echols. Candace recently published her first book, the children’s book Josephine and the Quarantine. Candace is a Midtown resident, wife, and mother of five. She has written for StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops, and writes in quiet moments from her yellow chair.