The dog-days of summer . . . the adults sat on the front porch, talking and talking, fanning themselves, sipping lemonade or iced tea. The fireflies lit up as the darkness set in. As the adults talked, which seemed so boring to us who were kids, we ran around in the yard. Trying to catch the fireflies in our hands, playing tag, maybe even riding our bicycles, as long as there was enough light to see and our parents said o.k. We didn’t hang around in an air-conditioned house. We didn’t stare at a computer screen or a cell phone. We paid attention to the sun setting. We devoured the vanilla ice cream in that special waffle-cone that crunched in our mouths. We didn’t even care that the ice cream started to melt and drip down the side into our hand. We were outside, so the liquid just fell to the ground. And it was o.k. By the time we had to go inside, we were physically tired. Our hands a little sticky from the ice cream drips. Maybe a bath or perhaps just a washcloth across our face and across the bottom of our feet. Mom didn’t want the dirty bottoms of our feet to rub against the bed sheets during the night.
That was a typical hot July evening when I was a kid, a few decades ago. So different now. Kids don’t automatically play outside after dinner, don’t run around playing tag or red rover. Both kids and adults have to be intentional about exercising, about relaxing, about slowing down, to be in sync with the heat that permeates well into the evening.
In fact, many of us feel guilty if we take time to just sit and “do nothing.” However, “doing nothing” is actually “doing something”. In today’s world that is very big. To sit or take a walk, to notice the birds, the trees, the setting sun, the stillness or breeze that surrounds us usually takes intention and being mindful. Or we miss it, because we’re busy doing something else.
I love the emphasis on mindfulness that Tai Chi teaches us. We learn to focus on what’s happening right now, to clear our minds of the constant chatter, to be present. That can easily translate to fully participating in a summer evening outside, enjoying the birds, the children, the moon beams glistening on the lake water. It can aid us in fully enjoying and participating in these dog-days of summer, one at a time, and with no electronic equipment at our side. With this mindset and full-participation, we can experience July fully, and not just wake up one day in August and say “where did the summer go”?