An Ode to Sultry Summer Pleasures

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
 —F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby

Those of you living in southern climes, or the snowbirds amongst us, won’t be able to relate to the feeling of emergence out of the dark hellhole of a Canadian (Albertan to be exact) winter.

This was the first winter I can remember, since I was 18 years old and got my travel wings, that I have been “storm-stayed” for the entire season. You’d think that for a Saskatchewan girl who was a safety patrol in -50 degree weather, I’d be made of heartier stock and be able to buck up. Not so. This winter almost, quite literally, did me in.

I learned that, fundamentally, I am a fair weather girl through and through. My spirit perilously flounders in the bleakness of an endless winter. My sister maintains that the weather does not affect her moods, but she has lived in the moderate Okanagan climate for 20 years now, so I don’t know if that’s a fair assumption or not. Judging by the robotic looks on the faces in this city, I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone in feeling beaten up by this past winter.

But it’s May and the sun is on its way. And summer portents play. In autumn we get on our back-to-business face, in winter we hunker down, (there is no spring in Calgary anymore) but in summer, we give ourselves permission to enjoy life. And I adore the simple pleasures that come with summer.

The first signs of life returning to my corner of the world are the geese. I live across from the Elbow River where they rule the roost, even now with the construction of a mammoth condo development. The buggers can honk out one hell of a 6:00 a.m. awakening, but I love them nonetheless.

One of the best investments I ever made was a deluxe chair-in-a-bag. A number of years ago when I first learned my territory would involve returning to rural sales calls, I was hugely disappointed. But once I began making the day trips, I relished the escape from the city’s concrete madness. I took my chair with me everywhere I went and at day’s end, I would take the back roads home.

LadybugOn the way, I’d park my chair beside ponds, in wheat fields, or on a hilltop somewhere. Many times I had a spectacular mountain view. I’d bring a book to read and some snacks to tide me over until sunset. Sometimes I would just sit and listen. Or watch ladybugs climb wheat chaffs. It was the ultimate meditation. Curious farmers stopped on occasion to find out what I was doing. I highly recommend you take a meandering country drive and give it a go.

A tradition of summer in my youth with my first love was to take a bucket of chicken and a bottle of champagne to a drive-in movie. If you can find a theatre, go retro on a warm summer’s night, chill a good bottle of vino and make a pit stop at KFC. And if you have a partner, be sure to take advantage of the “new place” make out factor.

If you’re lucky enough to have a pool, or know a friend with a pool, summer parties around one are a true luxury. My sister has not only a beautiful pool surrounded by 20′ cedars, but also a veritable Shangri-La of a backyard.

The summer I launched The Cuban Chronicles, we had a huge Kelowna pool party book launch with a feast fit for Cleopatra (my sis loves to cook, too) and then we were treated to a full Brazilian samba ensemble who made their way to her house parading down the street, much to her neighbor’s surprise. Book launches don’t get much better than that.

I have had a blast floating down the river with friends on a hot summer’s day. Everyone packs food for a potluck and we laze our way down the water with a picnic stop along the banks. But this May long weekend I tried kayaking on Columbia Lake for the first time in my life and hallelujah! I took off like a mad water bug and loved it. Who knew?

AfricadayThen there are the raucous Latin and ethnic festivals with the loud music, bright colors, dirty dancing, cervezas, and savory food. We are fortunate to have a number of these each summer in Calgary with spicy hot bands. We had a Mexican invasion the year of labor shortages and I felt like “my people” had arrived. The year before we were entertained by the Cuban contingent (can they dance) with a full scale “you stole my man” catfight. And one memorable summer we were treated to an all-male (shirtless) Flamenco group. Ooo la la!

GrupoMy Favorite Puerto Rican Boys of Summer – Grupo Mania (watch)

Convincing friends to take a break and go hang out in a park for some picnic bonding is a summer gift. One of my best picnics ever, was at Two Jack Lake outside of Banff on a cloudless summer day with a Turkish lover. He was new to Canada and had never been on a picnic.

Lake LouiseI take great satisfaction in showing foreigners the beauty of the Rockies. But I also love making up gourmet picnic baskets to take to a park, to eat riverside, or on a mountain daytrip.

We had a bottle of crisp Chardonnay on ice with real wine glasses, plates and cloth napkins. We grazed on Fresh French bread and Brie, Macedonian Greek feta, red pepper hummus and tzatziki, sweet grapes, olives, Italian salami, pistachios, and barbecued chicken done on his new little Hibachi.

A huge herd of mountain goats came down the cliff side late afternoon to entertain us and the gophers stayed nearby waiting for opportune moments to steal a chunk of bread.

We left well after sunset and, on the way home, were delighted to gaze at a huge full summer moon hung perfectly over the outline of a mountain range on the drive back.

Summer is a time of hope and revitalization and full color living. For me, the biggest benefit of summer is to go into your child-heart and seize the opportunity to play more. I don’t think life was meant to be as serious, complicated, and difficult as we’ve made it. Something tells me that we should be striving for more simplicity, mirth, and sensual pleasure on our short stint here. And summer is the finest time to follow your joie de vivre.

Simple & Sensual Summer Pleasures …

  • Bumblebees
  • Sundresses
  • You-pick berry farms
  • Weekend getaways to new-to-you cities
  • Ethnic festivals
  • Going barefoot in the park
  • Lying on a blanket outside, cloud gazing
  • A clean car
  • Boys of summer
  • Girls of summer (for the other half!)
  • Running through a sprinkler on a walk
  • Real lemonade on a hot day
  • Small town fairs
  • Fresh, sweet watermelon slices
  • Chirping birdies
  • BubblesBeing a kid and blowing bubbles outside as meditation
  • Weekday lunch breaks sitting outside
  • Vodka Saskatoon lemonade Popsicles
  • Butterflies
  • BBQs in the park
  • Summer songs
  • Fresh veggies at farmers’ markets
  • Walking places
  • Outdoor pools
  • Banning black and wearing bright pinks, greens, oranges, and turquoise
  • Sitting on café patios
  • Summer holidays
  • Lightning and thunderstorms
  • Road trips
  • Creating a patio garden
  • Bright yellow canola fields
  • Flower1Flowers
  • Sexy sandals
  • Garden fresh salads
  • Reading outside
  • Barbecued hamburgers
  • Real lemonade on a hot day
  • Mexi-fests
  • Stargazing
  • A sun shower
  • Summer weddings
  • Outdoor birthday parties
  • Children splashing in a pool
  • Babbling brooks
  • Outdoor concerts & movies
  • Sailing
  • Mojitos and margaritas
  • Ice cream cones
  • Campfire weinie and marshmallow roasts
  • Waterslides
  • SunflowersSunflowers
  • Fishing
  • Country drives
  • Horseback riding
  • Canoeing
  • Renting a convertible
  • Hanging a hammock and reading a good book
  • Farm touring
  • Pretty bare feet and flip-flops

This year, be sure to take a break from the mad merry-go-round and give your attention to the joy and beauty of summer. What’s your favorite simple summer pleasure?

Carpe diem!

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© Wanda St.Hilaire
Wanda – Authorpreneur

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