A northern summer, when it finally comes, arrives with the force of a miracle.
We wait for it hopefully, greedily, doubtfully. We complain that it will never get here. Then just when we’re convinced that this will be the year we’re right, summer comes. It stays. In its capricious way, a northern summer is reliable.
But it’s one of nature’s great jokes that the day summer officially arrives is also the day it starts to fade. In 2019, that day was Friday, June 21, the longest day of the year.
On Thursday, June 20, a summer-loving friend sent me an invitation to a Friday event that would celebrate the first sunrise of this new season. The celebration would be on a Chicago beach. There would be music and movement and an acoustic ecologist.
What a uplifting way to greet the solstice, I thought. Then I looked at the time of Friday’s inspiring event.
I wish I were the kind of person who would go to a beach at 5:15 a.m. to celebrate a summer sunrise. I am not that kind of person.
But maybe I could be. There’s a lot of summer still to come, and one of the season’s beauties is that it invigorates our sense of who we might be and what we can do. All the things that winter has leached from us can be replenished, or so early summer helps us to believe.
And with that can-do spirit, I’m here to encourage you to make your summer wish list.
Call it a summer to-do list, if you prefer, or your list of summer resolutions. I’ve used both terms in the past when mustering my summer dreams into action. Whatever you call it, the idea is to get the most out of this speck of a season by naming the things you want from it.
My wish list:
I want to get up early enough each morning that I hear more birds than cars, early enough that I have time to soak up a little summer morning before the day’s demands kick in.
I want to go to sleep at night at a time that makes the previous wish reasonable.
I want to spend more time outside and less time online. That includes spending less time on Netflix, no matter how many people tell me about that next great series I just have to see.
I want to take advantage of Chicago’s summer abundance — the farmers markets, the free music, the outdoor patios.
I want to spend time eating outdoors with people I love and enjoy.
I want to be in cool water on a warm day.
I wish for safety in the Chicago neighborhoods where summer’s pleasures are accompanied by violence and fear.
I want to go for walks in the long evenings. Maybe find some ice cream.
I wish for stars, which will require leaving Chicago.
I want time to read — to make time to read — in that deep, relaxed way that I associate with childhood. By read, I mean a book. What most of us do online isn’t reading. It’s consumption.
Not to spoil the mood, but I’m hoping that the people who write me to sniff, “Are you writing about summer again?” will understand that it’s the nature of the seasons, and therefore columns about the seasons, to repeat themselves. I wish those cranky people a good summer.
And while crankiness is in the air:
I wish fewer people cranked up their noisy air-conditioners the minute the outdoor thermometer tops 74.
And I wish for a summer free from complaints about the heat. It’s summer, people. Heat is what we’ve waited for, remember?
I hope no one will remember I said that when I wind up whining, “It’s so hot.”
I wish for time. Time to enjoy summer. We wish for time in every season, but summer is the one that creates the illusion that time has slowed down. At least it does when we do it right, which means making time to do what we want.
I want to get up, if only once, to watch the sun rise over the lake and be glad to live in a place that offers one of the best summers in the world.
Whenever it comes.
Mary Schmich is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Contact her at email@example.com.