I flexed my toes deeper, feeling the coolness of the dirt underneath the thick green carpet of grass. In the distance I could hear a mower, and I knew my father would soon reach the section of the yard where I’d seated myself between the biggest roots of the Elm tree. I put my book face down on the ground, closed my eyes and leaned over, inexplicably touching my tongue to the sharp slope of my knee, tasting salt and sunshine.
It was the summer before fifth grade and I hadn’t yet been recruited for the many chores my older siblings engaged in. By the time I was twelve, I was mowing the lawn and a cemetery in town right alongside my father. I also hoed weeds in the garden, carried wood for the woodstove fires that kept us warm in the winter, did dishes, washed the kitchen floor, and chopped down large weeds with a sharp hand weed cutter that was probably outlawed by 1980.
But in the summer of 1969, I still had a great deal of freedom in how I spent my days and I could do pretty much what I wanted to, within reason. And what I wanted to do was read.
I spent hours outside; reading book after book, after book, until the words blurred and danced on the page. Sometimes I labored over bad poetry on sheets of lined paper. Occasionally I played ball or invented something involving sticks and corn cobs with a younger sibling. I don’t remember ever being bored. I just remember how slow-paced those days were, how little I fretted or fumed about the passage of time, or getting things done.
I must have had a sense, even then, that my days of tranquility were numbered, because I used to consciously take the time to savor the moment.
I’d crouch and watch a line of ants march to their hill.
Go outside on a hot August night, and wait for a cooling breeze.
Roll down a grassy slope and wait at the bottom with my eyes closed until my head stopped spinning.
Take off my shoes and dig my toes into the hot tar on either side of the railroad tracks in the middle of town.
Make chains of dandelions or folded gum wrappers.
Lay and watch the clouds move in the sky, looking for patterns and pictures.
Lick my knee and wonder at the saltiness of sweat.
Yesterday afternoon I rushed outside to hang out the laundry so it could dry before nightfall. In a few minutes I would be leaving for a book sale and my mind was frantically sifting through the litany of things I had yet to do.
Then a breeze rustled through the neighbor’s bed of flowers, startling me out of my reveire. I realized how perfect the weather was, with temperatures in the 70’s. In Iowa these perfect days seem few and far between. I resisted the urge to lie down in the grass and watch the clouds go by, but I did give my husband a big hug when he came out to help me hang laundry. I relished the feeling of warmth that came more from his arms around me than the sun in the sky. And I consciously savored the moment. I stopped doing, and let myself feel.
The summers are only getting shorter.
When was the last time that you, as an adult, savored the moment?
Why not now?