Summer's Mad Dash

We constantly hear—

      “Live in the moment.
“One day at a time."
“Don’t worry about tomorrow—
          each day has enough troubles of its own.”

Each morning, I try to remember but quickly forget. My best intentions become just that—good intentions that never really work. It’s great advice, but the words don't change anything. They just make me feel guilty.

“Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.” Seize the day and put no trust in the future.

But how?

Like everyone, my days are stressed. And my to-do list doesn’t magically shrink or get accomplished faster by remembering time is fleeting. The days, weeks and months fly by without realizing their coming or going. I thought time would slow down as we got older instead of speeding up. But it is the opposite—each month becomes a blur. Holidays come around quicker every year: Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and suddenly it’s Christmas again. 

And summer . . . ah, summer. As a child, I welcomed the season with outstretched arms. I relished sleeping late, spending hours at the pool, watching TV and exploring the creek. But somehow the days of nothingness began to stretch into weeks of boredom. Time slowed to a turtle’s pace, truly becoming “the endless days of summer.” By August, I was anxious once again to head back to school.

Decades later, I have fallen in love with summer againdespite the heat and humidity in Alabama. Because my children are grown, I'm free from the tyranny of school schedules and bored teenagers. I’m free to enjoy sunny days and extra hours of dusk, lingering on the back porch swing if I choose.

But I don't.

Somehow I feel guilty. It’s hard to ignore my growing list of things I must do. In lieu of watching evening light fade into twilight magic, I head inside to clean dinner dishes or return emails. Instead of the days dragging their heavy feet in July and August, the summer months seem to run a sprint.

I blink and it's fall.

Linda Ellis’ poem “The Dash,” emphasizes the importance of living each day with purpose. The dash she describes lies between the date of birth and the date of death on a headstone. The last stanza reads:

He noted that first came the date of her birth

And spoke the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all

Was the dash between those years.

We are living our dash, but most of us dash through our days without realizing we are living. Therein lies the challenge.

To slow down the days, last year I tried an experiment. A simple plan, really—I paid attention to the date. In the morning hours, I’d say, “It’s Friday, June 1st. I’m thankful for this day of summer.” I welcomed the day and chose to greet it with gratefulness, even with its responsibilities. Mid-day I reminded myself of the date, recalling the opportunities still present. In other words, I stretched out the hours in my mind. And in the evening, I savored the day's gifts, even if they were small. A sunset, with fingers of rose-gold etching the sky. Fresh-brewed iced tea with mint leaves, ice cubes clinking in the glass. A visit with a friend. A deadline met. Vine-ripened ruby tomatoes.

I celebrated the day.

I lived in the moment.

I took one day at a time.

I paused to hear cicadas sing and watch fireflies flash Morse code messages in flight, which seemed to blink, "Wait. Reflect. Remember."

And, at the end of the day with curtains drawn to darken a shining moon, I whispered a benediction: “Thank you for today.” It sounds simple, but it worked. I enjoyed more of the season—it seemed to last longer. Summer slowed down, adding moments to my dash.