Making the most of summer

Published 1:19 pm Saturday, July 20, 2019


Coffee with Mimi

Each season has its own special aura. In the fall, the bounty of harvest at the close of the growing season is comforting. As we take advantage of the last of the fruits and vegetables in our gardens, or the local markets, we naturally are drawn towards home arts and comfort foods.  Fall colors begin to break up the greens of the landscape. We plan our holiday events and contemplate the upcoming traditions and gatherings..

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Soon, the daylight hours will shorten and we spend  more time inside during the colder winter months. The landscape becomes bare, but the rolling layout of the land is more visible and striking without heavy vegetation covering it.  Then, just when we have about had it with cozy fireside evenings and the aroma of holiday baking, spring begins to peek out from the darkness and daylight opens up a few more minutes each day.

Through it all, we go about our jam-packed routines. Work and professional duties vie for our time with sports, evening activities, school issues and family needs. Concerts, school plays, meetings, conferences, civic events: the list is endless. Most people live with a handheld calendar device, or the good old fashioned paper variety, and barely make a move without consulting one or the other, or maybe both.  Frequently, conversations begin and end with, something along the lines of just let me get to the end of May, and then…

But, finally, it is summer. So much daylight and so much to do, but it is different from the hustle and frantic bustle of fall, winter and spring.

People even leave work early. I leave work early. I take three work days off in the middle of the month for a combination of work and play trip. Really, what is the difference between three work days in July and three work days, in, say, January?  A lot. We don’t describe the lazy, hazy, crazy days of winter, ever.  But, boy are there a lot of them in July and August. June should be included in summer, but, honestly, most of my June is spent dealing with the clean up from the crazy days of September, October, April and May.

Then, finally it is summer. 

When I was teaching, summer was special for many reasons. Even work conferences took on a laid back status. There was the year I went to a history of aviation conference for a week. It was like a day camp, we packed our lunch and spent our days learning about, and dreaming of space and flight. Our classroom was an airplane hangar filled with planes from different eras in our history. 

Another year I went to an archaeology in-service program in the woods and dirt of southern Kentucky.  Lunch was provided as we travelled from one fascinating site to another, uncovering the stories of the settlement, lives and deaths of the early residents of the area.

One of the best years, I went to an archaeology in-service conference on “steroids.” We climbed an ancient buffalo jump in Montana and investigated the culture of Native Americans told by descendants of the earliest settlers of the region. At one point, we were within shouting distance of a bend in the river navigated by Lewis and Clark. Participants came from all over the country and from diverse professional fields. It was like the camps for the lucky kids who went away to picture perfect sprawling log cabin compounds which were made for movie sets.

Really, we slept in private dorm rooms and ate from a bountiful college food service establishment. There was enough free time built in to catch a run around the quaint college town each morning and shop the local art and craft stores. It was too much fun to be work. I didn’t get to go to summer camp much as a kid. But, I got my very own camp experiences and got to call them work as an adult. 

That is what summer is all about. Every conference or professional meeting offered from September to May is likely to be scheduled in a room with no windows and a box lunch delivered to the enclosed space. When the day is over, a participant has the sensation they are leaving a capsule and re-entering the atmosphere. 

Summer conference planners must be smarter and that means planning to take advantage of the natural amenities of summer. Situate yourself near a great watering hole or a nifty tourist destination with quaint, or quirky food spots or attractive venues to just sit and chill. You will definitely create the perfect ambiance for play and work or work and play.

Whoever coined the phrase, “working vacation,” knew what summer is all about.  Time to make progress, learn something and return home in better shape than when you left.  Every season has its own special moments, but summer is a time to let loose, slow down. Even the tilt of the earth is on our side, giving us more hours of natural light to get the job done, whether work, or play.