7/18/2012

Summer Pleasures

People ask me frequently about what I do during my summers off. The past two summers were especially hectic,as I worked, went to grad school, and took care of aging sick parents and rascally teenagers. Every year I take care of home repair projects, doctor's and dentists' visits, and travel.This summer I am trying to empty out my schedule just a wee bit, and am sticking to basically my core activities (which I've pursued for many years): reading, exercise, fresh gourmet cooking/gardening/wine, and staying up late at night.

Yes I do read constantly year round- I read professional journals/material for work, re-read novels I am teaching (every year,along with my students), and I read for pleasure; am in two book clubs, and read daily numerous newspapers and blogs.  But the best thing about summer is the ability to really sink into a book and stay up all night reading it if the spirit takes me. During the school year, I never have time to read for a long stretch- it's all bits and pieces. A little bit each night but I lose all continuity. I get up early for work, so I have to go to bed early, and my time feels limited and constrained. In the summers, I read all kinds of stuff- serious fiction, cheezy fiction, books reviewed on NPR or in the NYT book section as well as titles that caught my eye in the store. I particularly love lying in my wonderful bed and reading, with my dogs curled up next to me, all night long.
I wish I had the time, the energy, the self-motivation, the will-power to exercise more. I just don't. There are years when I walk a few miles every day, and years that I don't. I spent my 20's doing Jazzercise religiously -it's a great way to stay slender- and now have crappy knees that are about to give out on me as a result. Zoomba sounds like fun but I know it would cripple me in the first five minutes. A few years back I started doing yoga, and I love it. It keeps me supple and limber and in a positive frame of mind. During the school year, I can catch a class on Saturdays, but summers I take in several a week.
When I don't have the time pressures of work, I love to cook from scratch. I have a huge repertoire of Mediterranean (mostly Italian, little bit Greek), Southern comfort food, and Tex-Mex dishes that I can make from scratch and make well. I also collect and love to read cookbooks. "Food porn".But ten months of the year I come home tired and frazzled and it's dark and I need a glass of wine and so I grab a frozen lasagna or take-out. But summers ! Exploring farmer's markets and all the fresh offerings of the season is a sensual pleasure that is almost as satisfying as planning, making, and eating the produce. Caprese salad, anyone?
The very best thing about summer is that I take off my watch and lock it in a drawer until August. Likewise turn off the alarm and wake up naturally- don't even need sleeping pills to fall asleep. My entire working life is dominated by the clock: when to get up, how long do I have to eat breakfast? how long will my commute be to work today- will I be late due to traffic? how many more minutes in class for this lesson/activity? how many minutes between classes so I can go to the restroom? for lunch? till the bell rings? till the day is over? till bedtime? I go 185 days a year with only 20 min to eat lunch, 5 minutes to pee -if I run to the restroom- and never a spare minute for myself or to relax and do nothing. Weekends and evenings are filled with "must do's" (go to the dry cleaners, go grocery shopping, buy tires, get the oil changed, do laundry, clean the kitchen: errands and chores). I feel as if I gallop through each day and as a result, have difficulty winding down enough to sleep at night. It is a common complaint of most working moms. I know I am not alone in this. But I do know that folks in those corporate jobs can at least go to the restroom when they need to.

So in summertime, I just ignore the clock. Wake up when I want, eat when I want, stay up as late as I want, do what I want, whenever I want. I watch all the late-night tv reruns I miss during the rest of the year, do laundry at 2 am and eat at midnight, read till dawn. I never rush; I take as long as I need to do whatever I want to do. Put off anything I don't want to do. It is magical. By August, my personal "clock" is completely backwards; I have become a vampire. I just quit cold turkey and go back to the grind. I like it that way.

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