It’s hot today— supposed to be almost 100 degrees (F) by late afternoon. I can’t complain too much as I have home air conditioning; I finally caved and got it two summers ago, when I realized the never-ending heat was affecting my mood, my sleep, and my ability to get anything done at home. It was a mighty battle with my environmentalist side, to be sure but in the end, my need to not be miserable and not toss and turn at night won out. I assuage that guilt by using it judiciously, and I rationalize it by noting that my home in northwest Oregon has been upgraded from USDA zone 7.25 to 9.25-9.5 in the last forty years. Global warming, friends. And it’s only getting warmer.
Yes it’s going to be a hot summer day— the epitome of a classic summer day, and it got me thinking about summer. I’m not a heat-lover, as you might have deduced above. Sunshine is okay, but anything about 75 is just too much for me. That said, I have a number of summer traditions that I look forward to every year— ways of coping with the heat and enjoying this turn of the great seasonal wheel. The seasons are important to me. They organize my world, and their energy flows through me. I wouldn’t be the same without them.
First, I change the bed linens, putting on a blue flower-patterned quilt with matching soft blue sheets and tumbling the pillows in the dryer to fluff them up and get rid of all those dust mites, which I try not to think too much about. Although if I really start thinking about dust mites, I think about the Northern Exposure episode where Maggie first heard about dust mites and is completely weirded out and has a dream and is imagining a giant human-sized dust mite in a trench coat sitting up at the diner counter next to her and musing over a cup of coffee. Very noirish.
I also change the table linens and my kitchen towels. I do that every season, trading out burnt orange leaves and pumpkins and scenes of harvest in the fall for the winter’s deep jewel tones and pictures of stags and saints and bare birch trees. Trading flowers and vines and nesting birds in the spring for birds and berries and brilliant flowers in the summer. Bath towels and mats get changed, too— usually to soft pastels in green and yellow. They brighten the small bathroom.
Of course summer means special foods, too. Bowls of melons and berries, stone fruit crostatas, corn on the cob, grilled dinners, late breakfasts, picnic lunches, and a late night lemonade as the evening finally begins to cool. A favorite this year (thank you, Amanda!) is a salad made of sliced peached, fresh mozzarella balls, and slivered fresh basil, drizzled with a fruity olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt and pepper. I could truly live on this….
In mid-spring, once the days and nights have begun to warm, I bring out my summer cotton clothes…. soft shirts and loose cropped pants in ice cream shades of pale green and sky blue and the occasional pink or lavender. The cotton takes some work; I don’t really believe in ironing, so I pull the shirts wet from the washer, dry them for precisely 13 minutes, and then hang them and shape them, pulling them with my fingers so they won’t wrinkle. Much. It’s worth the work because the cotton is cool and smooth and light and feels so good next to my skin, especially after the long pants and heavy fabrics and dark colors of winter. As for those cold weather clothes? They’re tucked away in a couple of bins, ready to emerge around Samhain.
I always celebrate the summer solstice and always include Tarot work. The turning of the solstice sun— the length of day, the vigor, the bursting forth of light and life,— is a perfect time to read the cards. The winter solstice is a potent time, too. Why do the cards work so well on these solar holy-days? Why do they speak so easily? I don’t know, but they certainly do. I take them out of their bag, unwind their silk wrap, speak words of greeting to them, shuffle them— always seven times— cut them— again seven times, picking up the occasional card that pops from the deck as the cards move, for these pop-outs are always deeply significant— they want to be noticed— and then I pause to reflect, to imagine whatever is weighing on me, considering the insights I’d like to find, imagining the months to follow. I lay the cards out on the silk cloth, following whatever patterned spread seems best. And then, a deep breath, and a look at the images and symbols, numbers, and the age-old practice begins to speak.