Take off your shorts, don’t wear shoes. Walk through the shallows of an inland lake. Walk in the warm water near the shore; near the overhanging trees, near the wildflowers arching and groping for the sun. Walk over round rocks, hard and slippery. Walk in sand, fine and billowy. Follow the happy noise of children; the laughter, the questions of wonder, the shouts of delight, and the splashes. Do you remember? Do you want to come along? Do you want to see with the eyes of a child? Does your heart pump faster when they call to you to “Come see!”…and you do? It’s the excitement of finding out, the thrill of following a new path, the joy of the smell of pine and warm grasses; the radiant feeling of the water rushing over your thighs, the silt squeezed between your toes, and the blessed sight of sunny dapples on a summer’s lake. This is the promise of life lived on a northern summer’s day. Live the days and love them. Pluck them from the air and count them up like pennies and save them one by one.
For there aren’t many of them—up here, up north—where the threat of cold is always hiding behind the trees and the hills. We are keenly aware of our long winters, of our many dark and frosty nights. But can that make summer all the sweeter? The berries redder and bluer? The sunshine brighter? The warm days hotter? It can. It does. My expedition behind a crew of kids—cousins at a lake house—reminded me I am a child at heart. There I was, a grown-up on the dock, watching them discover something far away along the shore; their voices tinkling in the distance. But as soon as they splashed up and called to me to “Come look, come look!” I was instantly transformed into a kid. No hesitation. My heart grew lighter at the invitation—I was going to look. Oh yes, indeed. I was going to follow them. Whatever it was they’d discovered shone in their eyes and transformed my boring adult heart into a child’s again. I took off my shorts and jumped in. A miracle on a summer day. The words that come to mind are “cherish” and “thank” and “remember”.
Oh, to be invited to “Come see!” and to “Come look!” To help solve a mystery of an old boat; to scramble up a muddy slope just to see what’s up there, to be spooked by a shady glen and an old swing …to be a kid again—what exquisite joy. How fortunate we are to allow our eyes opened by children, by a warm and lazy northern day, by being loved, and by loving back. The long day of summer is ours. We can do what we wish. The pines whistle along and remind us to enjoy the bright sunlight and the aspens whisper to us to head on home, it’s getting late. Our time is short; Sometimes I can feel it. In summer and in life. As for me, I’m two years less than half a century; I’m reaching a tipping point, perhaps, like after the solstice, when the days begin to shorten. But I won’t let that stop me; I will shed my cut-offs and follow swim-suited children along a rocky, sandy shore. I will let my heart be young. Because life is to be lived. I will do it because I’m still that child inside—and so are you.
“I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another…I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by Grover’s Corners… Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?”
from Our Town by Thornton Wilder