In honor of the first day of summer, I'm sharing a piece I wrote some years ago in celebration of the season.
In warm weather, I ride my motorcycle down out-of-the-way roads I have no reason to travel the rest of the year. Along one shady stretch, just beyond a curve, is a place that stirs my imagination. What intrigues me isn't the low-slung house with the wraparound deck and picture windows or the wooded lot with the gazebo down by the stream. It's the sign the owners have posted out front. Artfully lettered and painted with flowers, it reads: "Enjoy summer! The Finkbeiners."
I don't know the Finkbeiners. I doubt we'll ever meet. But it pleases me—as I whiz past with the wind stroking my bare arms and singing in my ears—to think that someone inside endorses my enjoyment. I stop feeling guilty about dodging deadlines and leaving a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I'm having a good time, and that's just fine with the Finkbeiners.
But here's the odd thing: No matter how often I pass the Finkbeiner place and how closely I scrutinize the surroundings, I never actually see a Finkbeiner enjoying summer. I see all the trappings of a darned good time. There are lounge chairs and a barbecue grill on the deck. There are pots of pink geraniums. But it concerns me that these folks who've gone out of their way to urge the rest of us to make the most of this fleeting season may not be taking advantage of all it has to offer.
Sometimes I daydream about pulling into the Finkbeiners' driveway, getting off the bike, knocking on their door and asking how things are going and why, by the way, they're so preoccupied with everyone else's pleasure when they don't seem to care a whit about their own.
But then I worry that perhaps there's some awful reason, like a debilitating illness or the untimely death of a loved one, why the Finkbeiners aren't having much fun these days, even while continuing to hope that the rest of us are.
Other times I imagine a perfectly healthy and content Finkbeiner, iced tea in hand, answering my knock but glaring suspiciously through the screen at me—a stranger at the door with no package to deliver or petition to sign, simply someone who shows up unannounced on an August afternoon, asking impertinent questions. The encounter might not go well at all, and I might leave with the hollow sense that the Finkbeiners really don't care how my summer goes.
Then one day the Finkbeiners happen to drive by, on their way from their new home to an eye appointment or the wedding of someone's son. They see us lolling or frolicking or whooping, and they read our sign: "Have a super summer!"
And I dream that they do.
How will you make the most of summer?
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.