How I Spent my Self-Designed Summer

I freakin’ nailed it. Best summer in a very long time. When I heard the drums of Autumn (the marching band practicing), I was not the slightest bit queasy.
So, if you’ll remember, my problem going into summer was this: Since time seems to speed up in the summer (and I love summer so much and never want it to end) how could I slow it down?
My strategy consisted of:
Mindful Mondays (which included:)
*Intermittent fast
*Severe limits on screen time
*Double meditation time
Champagne Thursdays
Read fiction
And it worked. It totally worked. I am astonished that it took so little to make me so happy. I noticed the wildflowers (and took pictures of many of them).
I paid attention to my rhythms, especially hunger and satiety (intermittent fasting was great for that). I scheduled time for self-indulgence (Champagne on the deck every  Thursday after yoga, and long afternoons spent reading novels in the hammock).
Now all my needs for relaxation and rejuvenation and fun have been met in spades and I am going into this next season feeling generous and ready to take on new projects and challenges.
Now, what to do about Fall and Winter? Could I do the same thing? Could I design those seasons too, and make it so they don’t seem to drag and feel so dreary? Is there anything I could do, any rituals I could perform to prevent Fall and Winter from killing this nice summer fire?
I do know that all my deepest thinking and reading and creating happen in the fall and winter, and I do love and appreciate the deep interiority of winter, but I also hate not feeling sparkly and energetic a lot of the time, particularly in January and February. If there were only more daylight hours to play in, or at least more bright sunlight in those days, that would help a lot.
But the reality is that I’m not going to move from the cloud belt of northern PA this winter, so I need a…I almost said “survival plan” but what I actually need is a “sur-thrival plan.” Survival isn’t the issue. The issue is how to thrive, and flourish, and appreciate, and get important work done, and nurture relationships, and have a whole lot of fun doing it?
I’m wondering if there’s a way to blend fun and sparkle into introspection and interiority?
I’m challenging myself to come up with a plan. Stay tuned.
Do YOU do anything specific to ease the transition from summer to fall?  Do you have any habits or rituals or ways of motivating yourself? Tell me in the comments. I’d really, really appreciate it.

Slow Down, Summer!

Lazy summer days

Here’s how summer usually goes.

“Oh, the phlox are in bloom! Summer, finally! Yay.”

Next comes a flurry of manic activity:

Clean the garage.

Mow the grass.

Have a yard sale? Yes? No?

Have visitors.

Go visiting.

Go to Farmer’s Market.

Plant stuff.

Eat outside.



4th of July.

Then suddenly…drums. And trumpets. The marching band is back and practicing up on the hill.

The sumacs are burgundy already. Asters, vervain and goldenrod are blooming in the roadside ditches.

What happened to the daisies? And the cornflowers? Did I miss them? (I totally missed them.)

Where was I? What happened? Where did summer go? How the hell is it Labor Day already?

Every year, this same nausea. Every year summer flies and I hardly see it. So this year, 3 weeks ago, to be exact, I sat down and drew up a 3-Pronged Strategy for Slowing Down Summer. I do not ever want to get to Labor Day again and feel that autumn nausea.

Because summer doesn’t have to fly. It really doesn’t. Summers didn’t always fly. I remember childhood summers that were almost too long. And even as an adult I remember draggy hot days spent arranging lettuce leaves on platters, watching bird life, and listening to gravel crunch under my sneakers, waiting for the inexorable day to end.

And it’s not like I don’t I know how to slow down time. I do.Sit on a meditation cushion and set a timer for 20 minutes. That’ll do it. And, on the flip side? To vaporize time? Jump on the computer “just for a sec to check FB and email.” There you go. 2 hours. Poof. Vanished.

When I notice everything as it happens?  Time slows down. Live like a mindless robot? Miss the daisies.

So this year I needed a strategy. I couldn’t just tell myself, “I’m going to notice things as they happen this year.” That doesn’t work for me. I’m weak.  I slip into old patterns and habits too easily.

So, after a lot of thought, here’s the plan:

  1. Mindful Mondays
  2. Read fiction
  3. Take a photo a day.

Let me explain.

Mindful Mondays start Sunday night when I stop eating at 8PM and don’t eat again until 2 PM Monday except for a cup of Bulletproof coffee. Nothing slows down time quite as effectively as being hungry when there’s still 3 more hours before food time. On Mondays I also double my meditation time from 20 to 40 minutes and severely limit screen time to 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour at night and no screens while eating.

Read Fiction. I am a non-fiction reader by choice and inclination. However, this summer I am reading novels exclusively because novels take me out of time. It’s not just that they slow it down, novels remove me from time entirely. Reading a novel in a hammock seems to give the ultimate middle finger to time.

Take a Photo a Day. To take a photo is to pay attention to something. I have to stop, get still, breathe, and really look at something. I’m not that concerned with the artistic quality of the picture. What’s important is the moment of stopping and paying attention. I’m using the Photo 365 app on my iphone to keep track of my daily photo.

And that’s it.

I’m 3 weeks in and I think it’s working.  I plan to post here every Wednesday for the rest of the summer  and report on how this is all playing out in my life. Follow this blog to get my weekly updates via email.

What do you think? Do you have a strategy for slowing down time? I am really interested in this topic if you care to share.


The Journey Back

The journey back is difficult. Most of the summer I was silent here, but living loud in my life: traveling to Portland and the beach, teaching my beautiful students, playing with plants, riding bicycles, reading big books, cooking, grilling, eating, drinking, talking and laughing.

The other day I was clicking through my photos and the antics of a season seem to have flown by in a blink. So many things done, and yet so many things undone. Books not read. Dear friends not visited. The kayaks still hanging dry from the rafters of the garage.

I thought about a way to “ahem” my way back here, as if to say: Hello? Remember me? But every time I opened up the “New Post” page, the “Where to begin?” monster came and gobbled me whole.

So I took a random selection of photos from the past 3 months and opened iMovie, a program I have very little experience with, but want to learn better, and put together a raggedy scrapbook: “How I spent My Summer Vacation,” the first English class composition of the school year. It’s amateurish, it’s raw, but if it breaks the silence, it may unleash more words and pictures as the days go on.

Summer love

This has been a spectacular summer.  Really.  This has been the kind of summer I remember from kid-hood: long strings of sunny, followed by soft nights of starry.

Then a day of sprinkly little rains, followed by a touch of hot-hot-hot,  with a dollop of humid on top.

Then a big soaking rain, with an apocalypse-like fire sky, followed by a day of blue with greeny-green grass and dancing flowers and sudden tomatoes.

When I am sitting in front of my SAD light in January, huddled in my polarfleece, with a gun-metal sky holding me hostage to another 8 weeks of drear, I want to look back at this entry and remember summer:

Summer Tapas

Amazing light 1

Amazing light 2

Amazing light 3

Walking the Yard

Yesterday I taught my 6 AM yoga class, lifted weights with Tim at the gym, spent an hour with Holosync. Then I took a 30 minute killer Spin class with Amy, ate lunch, did some housework while listening to the This American Life podcast, showered, and taught my 5:30 yoga class.

This morning I put on some Cat Stevens and yoga-ed into this blue, beachy-feeling morning, and now I am heading out to run steps or hike up the killer hill in order to break my Mandatory Sweat of The Day before my noon class in Wellsboro.

Life feels full and good and sweet.

It is high summer and the daisies are blooming wild in the fields.  This weekend there is a Growers Market and on Sunday I will spend some time in Ithaca reconnecting with my dear friend Zee.

As I write this, Mojito mint is blooming in a planter on the deck, alongside two kinds of parsley.  The tomato plants have baby tomatoes on them, and the pepper plants have baby peppers, too.

In the evening, after dinner, we “Walk the Yard.”  “Walking the Yard” gives me a chance to check on things and to tell them how much I appreciate and love them: the day lilies, the sweet woodruff, the purple hosta flowers, the soft pinkness of the sky after the sun has set.

Walking the Yard at day’s end is a lullaby, a soft sigh, a fitting end to a perfect summer day.