An Ode to Summer

Van Gogh's "Wheat Field with Rising Sun."

Van Gogh's "Wheat Field with Rising Sun."

By Kate Lucas

Everything changes in Minnesota in the summer.

It’s like everyone blooms out of the walls after five months of dormancy. Scores of people are suddenly strolling and biking and paddling and playing baseball and eating ice cream from early morning into the twilight hours. Quickly, the memories of winter fade away, and this new life comes to feel like the way things have always been.

I can’t help but think that the Church calendar follows this rhythm of the seasons, at least a bit. I know very little about the early origins and evolutions of the Church (perhaps some of the theologians in the crowd could help me out); however, I have heard over the years that the Church season overlaps certain traditional, pagan holidays.

Christmas, of course, comes only days after the winter solstice. Yet at the opposite solstice, I am a bit surprised there isn’t a more prominent celebration. The Feast of St. John the Baptist is on June 24—lagging several days behind the solstice like Christmas. However it’s not nearly the same kind of consuming, exuberant celebration. I kind-of want this. I mean, dang it’s beautiful this time of year! Let’s have a big bash to show our gratitude!

And yet, I wonder if we don’t need spiritual ritual quite as much in the summertime. On the winter solstice, the days are waning, things are getting increasingly cold and brittle and gray—we need to be emboldened in hope, faith, and light. But now, with the summer sun full and beaming, more daylight than we know what to do with, beauty all around … it seems like God is everywhere.

At my church, our choir gets the summer off from singing weekly Mass. This year, however, our pastor designated three special Masses, one per month, as a volunteer liturgy for the choir. Come an hour beforehand, learn the music, and sing. Sounds like he’s trying out other ways to highlight these particular Masses to the parish—I guess he’s trying to encourage people to try to attend at least one service a month. It’s like he knows summer is a tough competitor, and there’s no way he could expect full attendance, but maybe once a month is reasonable.

The thing is, so many people are gone on summer weekends. They’re up at the family cabin, or out on a long bike ride, or at the farmer’s market, or sitting by a lake in town soaking up the sun. Many work summer hours so they can take a half or full day off on Friday, to stretch the weekend as much as possible. It’s just that summer is so achingly short here. And so beautiful. I often feel like I can’t fully soak it all up. I suppose that’s one big reason why I appreciate spiritual ritual—to try to recognize and express reverence for that which is too big and beautiful for words. Perhaps I could convince myself to step out of the sun for this—at least one Sunday a month.

Kate Lucas is a writer in Minneapolis, MN. When she was eight years old, she was in a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by a very brave, patient, and imaginative young woman) and the play remains one of her favorites to this day.

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2 Responses

  1. Kate,
    I have certainly noticed the “Great Awakening” of our public spaces in Minneapolis when things warm up! And I have also noticed in myself the deep need to observe the winter solstice very deliberately, but the summer solstice observance sort of sneaks up on me every year. I agree with you — I want to celebrate in the season of abundant light! While we certainly are observing the solstice with our daily actions, I like how your priest is gently guiding you to observe the season through the Mass as well. I picture you entering the dim, cave-like Basilica from the bright bustling world, joining together with your community to quietly inhale and share a moment of observance.

    Thanks for your post, Kate. I appreciated it.

  2. The light certainly is so welcome as summer is upon us. And yes, I too have found it hard to remember a time when the branches of the tree right outside my second-story window weren’t flush with green. The other day on a walk, surrounded by green life, I couldn’t for the life of me grasp how, just a matter of weeks ago, none of this was present.

    One of the reasons I appreciate daily walks is to see the gradual unfolding of this life. So at least it doesn’t take me by surprise quite so much. A bud inching out, day by day, into a bloom or leaf, is easy to follow if you pay the daily attention to it.

    I hope and pray I do the same in my spiritual life. Yes, in the summer, it’s harder to quell the outer activity and get quiet enough inside to connect with God. But I really do love how that focused attention can make the new life seem all the more alive and brilliant.

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