The Simple Life
By Michele Meier Vosberg
The other night I was sitting in my back yard at the patio table. I was enjoying a glass of my favorite Italian wine with my husband. There were, amazingly enough, no mosquitoes. The kids were somewhere in the house, otherwise occupied. The only sounds were a few crickets and the wind rustling through the trees. It wasn’t too hot or to cold; I felt perfectly comfortable, a physical state rarely achieved in Wisconsin in the summertime. I relaxed completely, for the first time in a long while. This is what summer is for, I realized, and I’ve almost let it get away from me.
It is the middle of August, almost back to school time. We’ve done our back to school shopping, and we have the notebooks, pencils and new school shoes to prove it. I’m starting to think about getting back into the school week routine. The kids are going to have to go back to getting to bed at a decent time. They’ve turned into night owls for the summer. The long days of summer are already shortening. Though I love fall, I want to pull back the summer and hold onto it a bit longer. Where did summer go? How did I get so busy with work and the girl’s activities that I forgot to enjoy the summer?
Summer is supposed to be easy. Summer is relaxed, barefoot and beaches. Summer is reading junky novels and eating outside. Summer is vacations and long, leisurely days off. I have to get started! I haven’t been anywhere near a beach this summer, and I haven’t read any good trashy novels. I’ve realized that I have a lot of summer pleasures to catch up on and only a few short weeks to do it in.
A lot of summer pleasures are pretty easy. In the spring, when I’m still ambitious about having a vegetable garden, I plant a bunch of cherry tomato plants. I don’t do much to the plants except ignore them for a couple of months. Summer brings the reward of my spring efforts; eating cherry tomatoes moments after you’ve picked them is a very good thing. If you add some mozzarella cheese, a little olive oil and a handful of basil it’s dinner. I could live on this gourmet in a minute meal. That’s what I call summer cooking. Even better yet, I can pick up the phone and call Unos and order a veggie pizza a la mode. After all, it is summer and it is definitely too hot to cook. On my deathbed, if I get a last meal request, I’m going to request Uno’s veggie pizza. I’ll die a happy woman.
Summer entertaining is easy and relaxed. You can call up a few friends at the last minute, pick up a couple of salads at the deli, toss some brats on the grill and you’ve got a perfectly acceptable dinner party. You eat outside with paper plates. Nobody cares if you don’t have matching dishes. When the kids spill things you don’t worry abut it. When everyone goes home you clean up with a hose. You can double up your chores and water your plants at the same time. Call it multi-tasking.
My ideal summer pleasures include water and boats. It doesn’t seem like summer unless I’ve had some boating days. In my childhood, my grandparents would take us fishing. I thought fishing was boring, but I loved rowing around the lake in the boat. My grandpa would yell at me for scaring the fish away, but I didn’t care about catching fish. In college I had my own little inner tube type boat. I took it everywhere and had many great times with it. My husband and I took sailing lessons one summer; one of my proudest summer moments ever was when I finally got my “license” to sail solo. I’ve given up whitewater rafting, but every summer includes at least one canoe trip with the family. I’d don’t require much in the way of a fancy boat, but summer isn’t summer unless I get my feet wet. To quote the character Rat in The Wind in the Willows, “there is nothing-absolutely nothing- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
Messing about the house is not a bad idea either. I love to putter, a leisurely activity that is not necessarily related to cleaning. Puttering is taking stock, walking around and picking up something here or there, maybe rearranging the items on a shelf. It means picking up a book I’d left in one room and moving it to a bookshelf and stopping to read a few pages along the way. Puttering is a nice summer activity, it is not too purposeful, but it leaves you feeling satisfied.
Summer pleasures also include not being able to do things. This is a perfect time for giving up guilt you may feel for not accomplishing things. Spring-cleaning is a well-known, if a bit old-fashioned institution. Whoever heard of summer cleaning? I need to paint my guest- room, but it is too humid, the paint won’t dry. I need to dig up some hostas and split them and transplant them, but I read that during the heat of summer is not the best time. It will have to wait for fall. I feel no remorse. It is far too late to lose twenty pounds before swimsuit season. I delight in the fact that fall clothes are considerably less revealing. Summer allows me to get away with relaxed standards.
So, for the next few weeks, I had better get relaxed. Find my flip -flops, I’ve booked a date with a canoe. Bring on the novels! I’m going to spend every spare minute, sitting at my patio table in the back yard, blissfully sipping wine and staring at the stars. That will be me, still sitting there in October, holding on to the last remains of my summer pleasures. I will stall and hold on to it for as long as I can because I know, deep down, that life doesn’t get any better than this.