It is summer, the season that seems to me most fleeting and ephemeral. Perhaps it is because I love it so much—the warmth, the long days, the abundant vegetables and fruits just begging to be eaten raw in all their glorious rich colors. I love to walk barefoot outside, work the soil of the garden, wake early to practice yoga amidst the rising sun and bird song. I feel beckoned by the water this time of year, called to the beach or the river. During summer, I feel as if I’ve inherited immeasurable wealth—the richness of longer days and plentiful gardens and exuberant energy. And I feel, too, that it is demanded of me that I live responsibly with this abundance, as one might view a precious bank account of time.
This year, I am feeling the passage of time more present than ever. My children are big kids—8 and almost 11—and I know that our summers together are few. Our extended family, too, is in the throes of cancer and death. I have known, though I fight it often, that everything, every single thing, is temporary. This year, I feel I know it better than ever.
How might I live responsibly within this season of abundance, knowing that, although I’d like to immerse myself idly in the blessings of summer, there are also many responsibilities that require my attention? In the most recent teacher training weekend, I listened to the trainees reflect on their previous month of home asana and meditation practice with some glint of failure in their tone and descriptions. They spoke of how they’d “only done” a certain amount of practices; how they’d started meditation practices, but had a hard time sustaining daily; how wonderful their practices had been but that they “didn’t get to do as many days as they planned.” I listened to this all and reflected after on how often we misunderstand what this practice is meant to offer us. It is not, I told them, meant to be another thing to check off our to-do list, another way we measure our worth or describe our failure in being able to accomplish enough. If life is hectic, demanding, moving forward faster than we can sometimes keep pace with, the practice can become a soothing balm, a pause in time. This practice of yoga should nourish us all the way through to our spirit, enrich our lives, empower our body, calm our minds, retrieve our spirit from the weariness of the world. It can, if we allow it, refresh and refuel us, serve as a balance to whatever else our life is dishing up on a daily basis. I forget this, too, but lately I am trying harder to remember. The practice should slow me down, teach me to watch and listen, hold me accountable to showing up as my best, most present self for everything life brings, so that I feel fed and awake to the abundance available to me, rather than bemoaning the missed opportunity of feeling alive.
One of my favorite, most present writers, Mary Oliver, uses her practice of presence with nature to write abundantly. It’s the fleeting nature of summer and of life, and the delicious abundance that springs up within the fleeting that comes through to me in her book Upstream. “Now, in the last hot days of June, I see no more turtles on the paths, nor even their curvaceous wandering trails over dunes,” she writes. “Now the heat brings forth other buddings and advancements. Almost overnight the honey locust trees have let down their many tassels of blossoms, small white flasks filled with the sweetest honey. I gather handfuls and, for a second, hold them against my face. The fringes of paradise: summer on earth.” Summer on earth is paradise, I agree. Yet, the appetite for more, always more, arranges itself and permeates my ability to remain still, enjoying the paradise for the blessing it is. Oliver writes, “Last week I ate the eggs of the turtle, like little golden suns; today, the honey locust blossoms, in batter, will make the finest crepes of the most common pancakes. My body, which must be fed, will be well fed…All things are meltable, and replaceable. Not at this moment, but soon enough, we are lambs and we are leaves, and we are stars, and the shining, mysterious pond water itself.” Not at this moment, but soon enough—this I try to remember, of this glorious summer season, of the difficult and of the beautiful. So I feed myself well on the abundance of it, with long slow breaths, quiet asanas, attentive eyes and a spirit tuned toward savoring the richness of it all.