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Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


A Daily Gazette community blog
Ideas on greener living

Long days of summer

We’re in the longest days of the year right now, which should give us the most time to do all the things we love to do — climb mountains, forage for wild fruit, swim in lakes, eat outdoors, watch the sun set, visit with friends and family.

Summertime is all about time, the long lazy days or the days crammed full of too many things to do. The trick is remembering to enjoy the time we have, and to push back against the busyness that tries to steal it.

In a way, we are still programmed from our school days to want summers off, with no obligations but to ride bikes, climb trees, take long walks and eat fresh tomatoes.

But we’re all grown up now, and we’re supposed to stay busy. This is the first summer everyone in my family is working — the teen daughter with a full-time summer job plus dance classes, and the boy with an extremely part-time job doing chores at a neighbor’s house.

He also organized some craft projects for a community Vacation Bible School, having inexplicably turned into one of the big kids, and he has various important projects in the yard, most of which involve jumping over things on bikes and scooters.

So we all run through our schedules each evening, coordinating pick-up and drop-off times, figuring out who will be available for a hike or berry picking, who is going to clean the rabbit cage, who is going to pick cucumbers and who is going to deal with those potato bugs. (Preferred method: knock them into a bucket with a couple of inches of water in it, then leave them out in the sun to drown.)

I think maybe time runs on two tracks: lazy time and busy time. Americans in general and Northeasterners in particular tend to think being busy is far more important than taking time to, say, have a cup of coffee with a friend or take a walk to watch the moon shine on the water.

I know I haven’t had coffee with my friend Joe in months. And when I get home from work and my son asks me to go for a quick bike ride, my first inclination is to say no, that I have weeding to do and beans to freeze and dinner to make. I have to remind myself to say yes. Dinner will wait, but the time to ride with your son won’t.

Which explains why in summer we often eat dinner at 8:30 or 9, and are up at midnight putting up vegetables.

But it’s OK. The days are long.

I think the boy does best with time. He rides his bike to his job, works and hour or two, then rides back home. Then he has time to ride over to his buddy’s house, where he can swim or fish or build bike jumps or look for mountain caves. And he still has time to draw and read and write songs.

The rest of us are a little more hemmed in by our work days, which are somewhat longer than his. Getting the girl to the swimming hole has been the biggest challenge, and sometimes when I pick her up from work we stop at the town beach for a few minutes on the way home, just so that summer doesn’t speed by with no swimming. The days are long enough.

When the Floridians were up visiting, they marveled at how long it stayed light, and didn’t even notice how late it really was until after we were done with dinner and it was suddenly time for the little nieces to fall asleep.

“Yeah, the days are long now,” my husband told his parents. “But you won’t believe how long the nights are in the winter.” This led to a sudden argument about which South American country it would be best to flee to in winters.

Sometimes my husband forgets to enjoy summer, his favorite season, because he’s too busy worrying about how much he hates winter.
Last week he sat in the yard, feeling down because he’d been sick and busy, and because the hay won’t wait for him to feel better and a deer family helped itself to some choice lettuce plants in the kitchen garden.

“I know it’s a beautiful day,” he said. It was almost evening and there were feathery white clouds being pushed across a bright blue sky by a light little breeze. “Part of me is aware of that, and I’m trying to enjoy it. But there’s so much to do.”

There’s always so much to do. But the days are long, long enough to spend some time just breathing the warm air and savoring a world full of roadside flowers and evening toads.

Even if you’re too busy there’s enough time for short breaks — to take a few minutes to admire the sky, or go for a short walk even if you can’t schedule a day-long hike.

We’re planning some shorter adventures: a morning birthday hike that will include cupcakes and a search for blueberries, and an evening hike that will including a mountain camp-out. It gets light so early we’ll be able to be back in time to get to our jobs, to balance our busy time with our lazy time.

Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday and features editor. Greenpoint appears in the Gazette’s print edition Sundays on the Environment page.

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