Today was a Wisconsin summer day so beautiful that it demanded I spend at least a little time doing nothing but appreciating it.
I sat on the porch gazing at a rich blue sky filled with fluffy white non-rain clouds. The wind blew gently through the maple trees, the cedars, and the overgrown lilac bush. Sunlight warmed the lush green grass that could have been cut today if anyone had been in a big hurry, which no one was. To take up blades and engines against the peaceful natural sounds of the afternoon would have been an act of needless and misplaced aggression.
While I sat, I snacked on a cup of popcorn (whose kernels had come from the fields of our CSA) and idly played a word game on my smartphone. But mostly I sat quietly and just was.
The kids were all inside the house, their various electronic devices aiding their re-entry to daily life after the end of an extended vacation time in which they’d traveled more than 1500 miles. (Without air conditioning. Sorry, kids.) There was no need for them to be rushed outside lest they “miss” the peace and beauty.
I recall many teenage summer days on which I always seemed to be in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. I’m not even talking about the day I was bitten by a dog while I was on one of my bike rides. I refer to the many days on which I sat in my bedroom, engrossed in a book, until I was told “It’s beautiful! You ought to be outside!” So, out I went. Or I was lying on a beach towel on the deck, hoping to achieve a tan that would fill in the background of my freckled skin (and praying I wouldn’t simply burn), until I was told, “What a waste of time — you ought to be reading a book.” So, in I went.
I never did manage to crack the code of knowing exactly what I was supposed to be doing on any particular day. But the best days were those when I told my bicycle where to go, and pedaled along country roads flanked by corn and soybeans (in alternate years, soybeans and corn), with the sun high in the blue sky and the buzzards lazily circling too high above me to cause concern.
Sometimes I rode alone, sometimes with a buddy, connecting the dots of ice-cream stands, elementary school playgrounds, state parks, and rustic farm stands selling fresh fruit, Amish butter cheese, and goats’-milk fudge. It made for summers of heavenly freedom, and as long as I got home in time for dinner nobody bothered me about where I’d been.
I appreciated my freedom at that time, and appreciate it in retrospect even more. I would hesitate today before allowing a teenaged child to be gone all day with no idea of where they were or any way to reach me. But it’s a generous gift to give someone their freedom of choice as to how they may spend a fine summer’s day.