Although I don’t live in the country, I live in what used to be country. The vestiges of farms and farm markets, produce stands and open fields abound within an easy drive. You might say I have the best of both worlds. Country at my fingertips and the city of Philadelphia a 40-minute drive away, two separate worlds merge as one.
A couple of miles up the road, a farm offers peaches picked that morning. These sweet, succulent gems are the essence of summer, a season of lazy days, reading by lengthened daylight, flowers abloom in kaleidoscopic color and rivers of white clouds and blue skies.
I was born in July and growing up most of my friends were away on vacation to the mountains or the shore. Birthdays were solitary affairs so I learned the value of a good book. While Dad mowed the lawn, I ran through the sprinkler in bathing suit. There was freedom, but loneliness too. The lesson learned was to look inward, not outward, for happiness.
This summer my sons travel through Spain. Intrepid explorers that they are, I give myself a little credit that this love of travel and experiencing new cultures derives from the summer two decades ago when I took us to Italy. It was there in the morning azure mists over the Mediterranean and the Assisi hillsides abloom with sunshine that Emerson’s credo “life is a journey, not a destination” resonated.
As a single mother, I reveled in summer travels with my sons. Summer felt like the most magical time of the year as we explored the road from Paris to the beaches of Normandy, the vistas overlooking the China Sea. As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
It saddens me that international travel was not to be this summer, at least for me. I spend this July babysitting ‘the girls.’ A German Shepherd and a ‘pithuahua’ (pit bull and chihuahua mix), my sons’ dogs Rin and Goose follow me everywhere. My dog Lily the Lab is the alpha dog. When she goes out, they follow. When she rests, so do they. They create their own ‘sisterhood.’
This birthday the friendship of women meant sharing our writing and life stories. They treated me to a lunch and dinner out. They wrote beautiful birthday cards, invited me to swim at their pool and picnic in their backyard, a pastoral haven of bird feeders and hummingbirds within reach. Being alone felt not alone. With them, I found our conversations shedding light on my own hopes and dreams for the future.
And so, I remain watchful, an eye cast toward the distant horizon for new experiences, knowing that idleness does not mean being idle. My energy resides with the fruits of friendship, the memories of the road less traveled, time alone between country and city, and a succulent peach on a summer morning.
How about you? What summer memories can you share?