Winter Planning - Spring Planting Summer Husbandry - Autumn Harvest
Easing Into Summer
For millennia, the summer season has been the most active season of the year for humankind. When our predominant industry was agriculture, hard work in the summer season increased the likelihood of a good harvest, which in turn increased the chances for winter survival. In an agricultural society, summer is a time for work; winter a time for rest.
Such a seasonal pattern is still evident in the North American school system. For the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries, school sessions were held in the winter half of the year, often beginning after harvest and ending with spring planting. Even as late as the 1960s and early 1970s, many colleges and universities in the United States began Fall terms in late September or early October. Today, we remember that schedule with extended recesses in the school terms for all levels during the summer months.
When more people began working in factories, mines, offices and shops than on the land, leisure patterns began to shift. Such work is much less seasonally dependent, and one could successfully argue that the colder months are more conducive to such work than the hotter months, particularly in the days before central air conditioning.
The concept of summer as a "kick-back and rest" season has coincided with the growth of the leisure industry. The automobile perhaps can be identified as one of the major factors in the rise of summer leisure activities along with the 5-day, 40-hour workweek. It allowed the middle class to quickly escape the confines and heat of the city in the summer and spend time at rural summer cottages, on fishing and camping trips, and on weekend picnics to the surrounding lakes, mountains, or woods.
Such get-away trips now fill every season as travel destinations to winter leisure activities increase in popularity. Summer still reigns supreme, however, as the choice time for leisure, and particularly outdoor, activities but other seasons are catching up fast.
Unfortunately, we tend to pack our leisure time as hectically as we do our work time. I have often heard vacationers complain on their return home that they now need a rest. I thought that was what they had left home for. Today more than ever, we need to heed the message to slow down. With electronic communications networking the globe, it becomes harder and harder to find truly peaceful periods of time. Our evening is someone else's workday, and they need to speak to us. Our Sunday is someone's Monday, and they need that report immediately.
Think of all the messages you receive in an average day and potential message sources: post mail, voice mail, email, phone conversations, pagers, memos, notes, radio, television, internet and print, even billboards as we walk or drive or ride. No wonder we feel so harried that our productivity, not to mention our health, suffers.
Stephen R. Covey set out a matrix describing the four types of demands on our time in his book First Things First. They are:
Urgent and Important,
Not Urgent and Important,
Urgent and Un-Important
Not Urgent and Un-Important.
His premise is that the wise person who has control over personal time spends most of it dealing with the first two on the list and very little time on the latter two. Too many of us waste our lives on the Urgent and Un-Important demands because, according to Covey, "the noise of urgency creates the illusion of importance."
We carry our portable phones just in case they bring us an Urgent and Important message, but more and more we only get Urgent and Un-Important messages, which are only important to the sender.
At times I too surrender to the power of the telephone because I might get a call concerning a contact or job opportunity if I leave. Since I refuse to subscribe to the cellular phone syndrome, I tie myself to my office/apartment to be near the phone.
Surprisingly, most of the calls that sound so urgent never really are. Many are requests for proposals that are not reviewed for months. Call-backs result in the original caller unable to remember the reason for the initial call. So I rely on the answering machine and break my bond more and more with the office to find another spot where I can work at my best pace and efficiency.
I have found a spot which is generally quiet (except for natural sounds of surf and wind and bird life) and has only one access road leading to it so that I am not surrounded by the constant whine of traffic as I am in town. Here I can commit my thoughts and attention to my latest writing project or research materials.
I also find such places important for my favorite pastime: nature watching. As many of you know, weather watching is my prime joy. But I also love to indulge in bird watching and plant observing, particularly in the Spring and Autumn when changes in the plant and insect communities are so rapid. Birds are most fun to watch in Spring when mating and nest-building dominate their activities. But in Summer, there is always so much to see.
I hope each of you has a pastime in which you can lose yourself, detaching your mind and spirit from the incessant demands of our age to indulge yourself to a time of renewal. Summer is a great time for honing our skills of detachment from the hubbub of daily life. Somewhere there is a bench, chair, log, hammock, rock, stump or patch of ground waiting for us. Use that space to rebalance yourself physically, spiritually and psychologically. And most of all Enjoy!
Oh, and if you see me sitting nearby, nod and smile and I will do the same. I may even be humming: "Su-u-mmerti-i-i-i-me, and the livin' is eeeee-asy."