February 21, 2020

In the Dry Old Summertime

By Chaplain Mike

We aren’t yet to the “dog days” of summer.

But I’m dry already.

Am I alone in finding certain seasons of the year more challenging with regard to staying spiritually vibrant?

Life has a rhythm, and I seem to do best when that rhythm is steady. But summertime often lacks a defined drumbeat by which to march. I know that is why many people love the season, and in some ways I do too. However, I find it challenging to stay in shape, to keep focused, to maintain energy, to stick to a plan.

Oh yeah, the job goes on like always, and in some ways it feels even more relentless and demanding. That’s discouraging, because when school lets out and the sun gets hot, the beat ought to change, I think. Something more like reggae, or Brazilian. A little more freedom to the routine, a bit more space the schedule to find some shade.

It’s the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, right?

What I find instead, is that summer is all light and heat.

Some struggle with “dark nights” of the soul. It’s the intense brightness of the sun that drains my vitality. I identify more with the deer panting for streams of water than with one who feels abandoned in the night watches. For me, the cool night is refuge, relief. A sky full of stars expands and refreshes my spirit. A quiet late evening after everyone else has gone to bed, and I can almost feel the aquifers beginning to be replenished.

But soon enough the heavy, hazy air of morning returns. The sun blinds me as I round the bend and turn east on the highway, revealing greasy streaks across my windshield, splattered bugs and bird waste. It’s as though a wall of yellowish-white floodlights has caught me on stage, and I’ve forgotten my lines. Everyone’s mood on the commute seems foul. All through the damned heat of this day we’ll be perspiring and cursing under our breaths. Is it we, the cogs in this incessant machinery, that produce this infernal heat?

Why can’t we be descending stairs to the dock, where a kinder light reflects off cooling waters? Why can’t we be awakening beneath blue-green pines, dew thick on shaded mountain grass, inviting us to sit and drink our coffee?

It’s harder to pray when there is no breeze.

There are days when food tastes like the same old manna.

I keep saying I’m going to start walking in the morning or after work. I just keep picturing trudging through the wilderness. Haven’t started walking yet.

Yes, that was me you heard grumble. I get why the Israelites were so prone.

I know it’s the heart of baseball season and I should be enjoying that, but remember, I’m a Cubs fan. (no comments necessary)

Air conditioning helps, but ultimately feels artificial. One has to go out sometime. My world is divided into separate and equally undesirable compartments: inside sterility and the steambath outside.

My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. (Ps 32:4)

We got a big-time spiritual lull goin’ on here.

Right now, it’s past 1 am, and I’m trying to feel some cool. Forecast says 92Ëš today. I’ll be wearing a tie and going in and out of the air conditioning. Frankly, I don’t want to go to bed. Before you know it, I’ll be rounding that bend and staring into the summer sun.

Jesus, Shepherd. Lead me to some cool, quiet waters.

Comments

  1. ahumanoid says

    “For me, the cool night is refuge, relief. A sky full of stars expands and refreshes my spirit. A quiet late evening after everyone else has gone to bed, and I can almost feel the aquifers beginning to be replenished.”

    Same here. In fact, I’m about to go sit under the stars at this late hour (2am).

  2. “It’s harder to pray when there is no breeze.”

    Yes, I agree. This heat saps my energy…physically and spiritually, I guess. No air condititioning in my house, but we have a daylight basement and that’s where I try to spend a lot of time. The fan in the bedroom window didn’t help much.

  3. Reds took three out of four in Chi-town last week. (Sorry–comment was necessary…)

    As I type this, my brother in law is sitting next to me on his front porch. He has taken the week off work to do stuff around his 8 acre homestead–work on the horse barn, mend the fence, work on his yard. He just said to me, “If it’s going to be this hot this week, I think I’ll go back to work.”

    I’m still trying to figure that one out.

    I, too, get drained by the heat, and at times would take a “dark night of the soul.” God’s seasons of our lives always seem to last longer than we think we can take–or, at least they do for me…

  4. But is this not a season? Dormancy and estivation (the summer version of winter hibernation) have a purpose. They allow us to pare back all the accumulated unnecessity of the year and reduce things to bare essentials. Fashion takes a back seat to comfortable clothes. Instead of the frenzy of spring cleaning and garden planting comes the lull of occasional weeding and plucking the ripe tomatoes for BLTs. Summer days are meant to be lazy. Enjoy them. The fall frenzy will be on us soon enough.

  5. This is where the beauty of being a bi-vocational school teacher is manifest. (Please no public school bashing- I’m on the inside and know better than anyone our problems) School let out at the end of May. I taught summer school but even with that, I still have this whole month off. My days consist of going to the YMCA in the mornings, and then laying by my in-laws pool wtih my stay at home wife and two pre-school boys. Yesterday was moslty cowboys and indians, whiffle ball, and swimming.

    My spiritual side does suffer b/c I get lazy. Shame on me.

  6. Jo Ann Peterson says

    Ah…those pesky summertime blues. I’m right there with ya. Excessive heat makes them feel worse. I have felt spiritually dry for a very long time. Feels longer than a season to me.

  7. For we liturgical types, it does not help that we are in Ordinary Time. There are no major feasts; no hooks to catch at us and snag our attention. Just one week melting into the next. And the heat. Iyiyiyi, this August-in-July heat. SIt below the wrong window at morning Mass and you have St. Lawrence (“turn me over, I’m done on this side”) beat by the end. I’ve given up on bike rides, and started jogging after work (11 or 12 at night). “The still watches of the night” are very appealing right now.

  8. When I was a hiker in New England, I dreaded summer and loved the cold, crisp days of fall and winter. Now that I’m a gardener in the Midwest, I love summer and don’t look forward to winter. Part of that is our old, solid-brick farmhouse that stays cool in all weather, summer and winter. There’s always something . . .

  9. David Cornwell says

    I’ve always loved the summer, heat and all. I have wonderful memories of childhood summers, playing outside late, catching lightning bugs, playing games, hiding, all the other things that went with it. Now that I’m older and retired I’ll admit that sometimes the heat gets to me, but I still enjoy mowing the grass, doing summer things, reading and taking some summer trips. We moved two years ago from the city to a detached portion of my son-in-law’s dairy farm. We have some seasonal farm odors that take some getting use to. But also have country road to walk on, and places to do my photography hobby, wetlands, preserved areas etc. This summer I’m also taking some short trips to Chicago by train (for photography).

    Winter is the hard season for me. Prolonged days of gray and no sunshine have a strange effect on me and I have to fight depression. And I have a tendency to become a grouch in the Winter. I have a hard time getting out to enjoy the season. Part of this is a physical condition that launched a slow attack on my lower back (spinal stenosis).

    This year has been very different. I left the ministry after 20 years and went to work for a large company, after which I took my retirement from the church and the company. This year, out of the blue, the chance came along to preach again. So, since January I’ve had the off and on chance to do that. In some ways it has been transformational, changing my outlook, causing me to study, dig, and pray. I’ve always been a lectionary preacher and enjoy the discipline it enforces. Whether these preaching opportunities continue will be in the hands of God and the churches that invited me.

  10. Jim Park says

    Chins up everyone! …yes, both of ’em …sweet corn and home-grown tomatoes about 6 weeks away here in northern Minnesota. We wonder at the baby ducks, loons and geese all maturing before our eyes on the lake, the birds wrestling for the barely ripened berries on the trees, the sunfish and crappies jumping for bugs in the early evening. The heat means no ticks around :>) …but the deer flies and mosquitoes don’t seem to mind it.

    It may be July to you, but I am in the October of my life and savoring every minute, even the hot and humid ones.

    • A beautiful northern Minnesota summer is beautiful in a way that I (in my limited experience) have yet to find anywhere else. I experienced one, and keep it tucked away in my heart.

    • This is the best time of the year in my Bible garden. The figs are ripening. The vines are full of ripening grapes. Although the pomegranates don’t produce quite so well in our humidity the flowers are beautiful. I have the grapes, well actually muscadines, on an arch that I must walk under to enter the garden. I always notice the strength of the vine and frequently trim back the stems that do not produce fruit. This is also my parable garden.

    • My tomatoes and cucumbers are almost finished for the season, but they have been plentiful this year. Gardening helps to inspire appreciation for all the seasons.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Heh, no wonder you dig summer; you’re in Minnesota! Summers up there are amazing. Your hottest days are our cool days in spring and early autumn!

    • Sweet corn, beans, and fresh tomatoes. Ah. I’ll be singing a different tune then.

  11. SearchingAnglican says

    You know, it is easy for me to get lazy/unfocused in the summer because things are less structured at church and in my Christian community. But without the structure/accountability of my small group, which doesn’t meet in the summer, I find my spiritual discipline drifting and meandering. Too hot. Too busy with 10-hour workdays. Too distracted by vacations and baseball games.

    I grew up in a church that was not air conditioned in hot and humid central Illinois, and we were always Saturday evening Mass attenders…I remember thinking Mass seemed to last for hours and hours, and it was very hard to imagine that Jesus was actually present in that sweltering, breeze-less church, with my shirt sticking to the wax on those hard wooden pews!!!

    But here’s the difference in MY life over the past couple of years…vegetable gardening, after years of assuming my supposed brown thumb was an obstacle I could never overcome! The onions, beets, beans, cucumbers and zucchinis are in out here in western Kansas, and the tomatoes aren’t far behind. And, of course, the weeds are everpresent, and without steady attention, become a crop of their own.

    The daily reminder of God’s bounty in creation and our responsibility for good stewardship has reconnected me to God in a way I would have never imagined. And praying while pulling weeds and picking veggies, often in the cooler, dusky hours between 8:30 – 9:30 has become a spiritual discipline in and of itself…and one I never expected!

  12. Lukas db says

    Winter is a time of things inchoate, of hidden depths and deep silence. Everything on the surface is lifeless, but the deep-minded look around and see only life. Seeds sleep beneath the soil, fish swim under ice, and in burrows creatures breath under the snow. They are all preparing to reawaken. Just as in the summer people once prepared for winter by building up and storing food, in the winter we build up and store away spiritual and mental reserves for the time of trial and battle we call the summer. We can only rest in ease and peace in the summer if we have lived our winter well, and have not been offended by the whiteness of the snow or the biting of the wind.

    Life is always fullest to me in the winter. Perhaps, when all complications of nature are stripped away leaving only black branch and white frost, the form and outlines of the world become clearer. Perhaps, with the sun so little present to guide our eyes, we have to learn to find our own way.

    I live more in mind than body, and so I love the winter best. But I could not endure it without the summer. They are day and night, waking and sleeping. Let both be in balance! To live in the tropics would be like insomnia; the arctic, a coma. I like where I live. I am grateful for both.

  13. You’re kidding, right!! Chaplain Mike arn’t you from northern Indiana???? I went to Goshen Ind. 2 years in a row in the months of May & June for weddings, it was some of the most beautiful weather I’ve ever been in. If you want real heat come to south GA. 98 degrees heat & high 90s humidity! All that being said, I love the heat (as long as i have A/C mind you) its a time to go find a pool, pond, or beach. You have to love it or it will drive you crazy ( I hear people in the northen midwest say the samething about the cold, snow & ice). still it is true that usually during the Summer my Church begins to take a sabbatical from normal Church worship. There is usually less people, as everyone is on vacation & visiting family in other places. I have found this summer interesting because I have been focusing more on the church calender this year & with smaller Church services & being in ordinary time makes me fell more individualistic in my spritual walk this summer. But Harvest parties, holloween, Thanksgiving & Advent will be here before we know it peace

    • briank, I know…I’m a wimp.

      Actually, it’s not so much the heat, that’s just the excuse. It’s really just my spiritual summer slump.

  14. There is hope, even in the 100-degree Northeast.

    For the last three weeks, I have noticed brightly colored fall leaves on my street. Deep reds, vibrant yellows and eye-popping oranges, all encouraging me that this beast of a summer will not last forever.

  15. I understand. But I actually like the summer, heat and all. I love to be outside and feel the heat, and then experience the relief that comes from being inside where it is cooler or being out by the pool. I have lots of good memories tied up with the summertime, such as snowballs (if you haven’t lived in south Louisiana you wouldn’t understand), days at the pool, trips to the beach, bike rides through the neighborhood, etc. Plus, there are other things that I like about summer, such as the color of the summer flowers and the green trees, and the sound of locusts and crickets chirping in the trees. For me, what I hate is the winter when it is brutally cold and all these things are gone.

  16. Here in Arkansas the heat and humidity is oppressive, squashing you, beating you down.

    But I can remember going on a silent retreat for a week in the midst of it and just simply surrendering. And it helped me stay in my cabin and pray, too 🙂

  17. Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    I can tell ya that every summer I seriously consider leaving San Antonio. During certain parts of the day there simply is no relief.

    It’s interesting how the physical realities of our lives affect our spiritual conditions. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, gnostics!

  18. I too, wrestle with those summertime blues. From the heat and humidity to the fact that summertime for me growing up was never the ‘party-time of the beach’ or the ‘summer of love’ even though I lived five minutes from the beach. This combined with the fact that most of the ‘hurts and pain of life’ I have experienced occurred in the summertime which created those ‘dark nights of the soul’ that really drains me physically and spiritually. Actually, what has helped me during the summertime is working out at the gym and exercising.

    In fact, I can not wait until September because the fall season comes (equinox) and I always take off work that Labor Day week and retreat for that sense of refreshing, rest, and relaxation.