Living Deliberately, In Small Doses

Some people love the summer.  They love the sun, and the heat, and the beach.  They adore the green, fertile earth, and the sounds of birds and crickets.  They look forward to the long days, baseball games, and cookouts.

I have a theory about those people.They’re Canadian, British, or live in northern New England.  If a North Carolina resident says this to you they’re either lying or transplants who’ve never had the peculiar joy of receiving twelve brand new mosquito bites walking to the mailbox.  Or paying $75 for a blow-out and have the humidity make your new coiffure transform into a cheap fright wig in the time it takes to walk from salon to car.All honest North Carolinians must admit that our summer is a hellish endurance contest. Research tells us that native Alaskans have 280 names for snow.  People living in the heart of Carolina have 187 names for sweat.  And, another 72 for chafing.

But, no matter how horrifyingly demoralizing our summer gets, we all know it will eventually end, and thus yearn, from the depth of our flushed, blistered, overheated, cranky souls, for fall to commence.I’m usually over our summer by about May 14th.  Then I exist in sweaty limbo until the weather breaks.

And, boy howdy, has it ever broken.  The heat and humidity are gone, replaced by crisp dry air that smells vaguely of woodsmoke and nutmeg.  The sky is art school-level cerulean blue, and the clouds are usually solitary, lacey, and white.  The leaves are in mid-change with enough green left to make the scarlet, tangerine, and goldenrod all the more spectacular by comparison.Almost every day I put on my wellies, and the dog and I disappear for hours into the woods.  We follow paths and make our own.  We climb, and jump, and splash through puddles, ditches, and creeks.  And occasionally, when the Akita known as Crowley is nose-deep in a hollow tree and still for a moment, I take a look around.

And in my head and heart is wonder and gratitude, in equal measure.It is the very definition of beautiful.  Even the lane cut and maintained by the natural gas folks looks like a Hollywood set for an autumnal movie.  The underbrush has died back, making the forest floor manicured and verdant.  Leaves with colors Titian had no name for dance and swirl in the breeze.  The air has a crystal quality that makes everything look glossy and photogenic. And this ostentatious, glorious Monet landscape is only one block from my house.  I wouldn’t trade it for ten pairs of Stuart Weitzman boots and all the Lindt milk chocolate truffles in Christendom (but it’s probably best that no one’s ever offered me that deal…).I treasure my solitary hours among the trees—all of it.  I can loudly, badly, sing along to Aretha Franklin with no one to critique, but seconds later stumble into giant, sticky spiderwebs or briar patches that leave me plucking thorns from bloodied flesh.

It’s just the price of admission to this other world; but so, so worth it.  So this week, Gentle Reader; I urge you to take it outside.  And you can do it gently.  Drink your morning coffee on the porch.  Sit outside with the kids while they do their homework.  Eat lunch al fresco (Outside, not naked, but hey, you do you.).

Because in February, when you pull on that third pair of socks ‘cause your toes are frozen fish sticks, you’ll remember these precious fall days.  And, whether you’ll feel pleasure or chagrin is up to you.Thanks for your time.

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