When I was a kid, summers sped by, leaving pinwheel impressions of color and movement, the feeling of wind through my hair and warm grass under my feet, lasting well into the fall season of school year hustle and bustle. As much as I loved school, and cherished snow and cold and the cocooning of winter, by the advent of May I was ready to break free and let body and soul wander like tramps through the warm days and cool nights of a Kickapoo Valley summer.
I remember summer as always changing, moving from a lazy morning reading on the patio to the splash and laughter of swimming lessons or an afternoon at the pool with Mom. Switching from the make believe worlds of my dolls to the reality of iced tea with Aunt Donna or a barbecue with the cousins. These Kickapoo summers were predictable in so many ways, yet there was always something waiting around the corner to reach out and grab me, bringing tidings of new experiences and broadening horizons.
One of the things I remember most fondly were the times spent with my brother Ray, cousin Joe, and the Boehm brothers, Chris and Mike. I remember always feeling a bit special that they didn’t mind me hanging around, a girl in their group of guys. Sometimes we would shut ourselves up in the basement and play Dungeons and Dragons, eating brownies that I baked fresh that morning. Once in awhile we would go to movies in Boscobel or Viroqua, and afterwards stretch out on the hood of the car in a wind-swept field, listening to the night, dreaming and talking. Then there was the memorable summer when Ray got the idea of making a movie, and we set the forest behind the house on fire. Funny, though, that time- the boys all disappeared, and I was the one looking worriedly out the window as Sherman Mickelson, the fire chief, strode out of the woods holding one of our Shogun warrior dolls, saying, “I think this is the guy who started the fire!”
The end of summer always brought a mixture of feelings- the sadness of knowing that summer was over, the knowledge of time spent, never to be recaptured- but along with this the eagerness to return to school, not knowing what the new year would bring, the happiness of seeing friends again and the excitement of learning and experiencing new things.
Summer for me now, in this time and this place, has lost its magic. Instead of looking forward to it as a break, as a time of rejuvenation and freedom, since moving to Shihr I find that I dread the coming of summer, and look at it as something merely to be endured until the gentler, cooler weather of fall and winter return. The weather is hot and dry, the air humid, the landscape a monochrome print of sand and rock. Never in my life have I experienced such heat, such a lack of change in the weather and the surroundings, and I find that sometimes I feel as though I am living in a box, one that my soul rebels against. I long for the feeling of grass beneath my feet, that feeling of time being my own, that childhood summers brought me. The heat makes it almost impossible to enjoy being outdoors- often I dread the idea of going out rather than looking forward to it as I always did in the past. Summer is a time for locking down and patiently persevering, not a time of expansion and movement.
Still, though, I can search inside myself and find the summers of my childhood- and my adulthood in other places- and I feel the longing for this milder, gentler summer in my heart. I make a conscious effort to try to adapt, to strive to enjoy the good that summer has to offer here just as I enjoyed it in the past. Indeed, Allaah has blessed me with so much, and I know how often patience and gratitude go hand in hand. In our small yard is a sidr tree, full of birds, providing shade and a splash of green to rest the eyes from the brown of the surrounding world. The birds cheerfully ignore the heat, singing the coming of day as well as the return of evening. We walk down to the Sea as often as possible, picking our way over rocks, turning our backs to the dusty town, and sit looking out to the horizon, listening to the whisper and crash of the waves on the shore. When the power goes out at night we take pillows to the roof enjoy the hint of the Sea breeze, listening to the murmur of wind through the leaves of the tree. Looking at the star-speckled sky, I see Orion, and I am transported to another night, another field- and the past and present join hands, just for a moment, and I call summer home again.