A Summer Blog — My First Real One!

Summertime

I thought it would be auspicious to write my first blog on the first day of Summer 2010. By this time next year I’ll have published my first book in more than a decade, MONDAY IS ONE DAY, illustrated by Julian Hector. It’s a book about counting the days of the week with a child you love until you can spend the whole day together. So in that spirit of counting down, here are ten things I love about summer:

1) The happy shrieks of my six year old son and the neighbor kids playing in a sprinkler. The slick massage of wet grass on bare feet. Late afternoon sun making vitamin D in my forearm skin, as I sit on the back porch supervising.
2) How an elementary school packs its bags for summer vacation; the walls of classrooms yielding up their art projects. The air warm and still, each of the last dismissals a rehearsal for the BIG one that comes in just A FEW DAYS.
3) The upholstered rocking chair on the porch of my parents’ home, that once belonged to my great uncle Morris, but which somehow seemed custom made for my body. I could sit and read in that chair for hours, cooled by the breezes off the Peconic Bay that came in through jalousied windows. It was quiet in that open room, in that chair. The quiet of a nearly empty summer house. Just the springs of the rocker, and the sound of the deep-gong wind chimes my brother brought back from Peru and hung from a thick wooden beam. In the distance, a motor boat pulling water-skiers. Laughter blown up from the beach. A diet coke in a glass sweating on the tile floor next to me.
4) Bad Summer Movies. Bad summer movies gone to with a group of friends. A burger before hand. Popcorn during. Ice cream afterward. The heat-and-salt-and-sunscreen smell coming off everyone’s skin and cooling in the refrigerated air of the theater.
5) The publishing tradition of “half-day Fridays” which allows for the illusion that there IS still such a thing as a summer break, even though deadlines and schedules and work pressure presses on relentlessly, unmoved by one’s memory of relief.
6) The clean, brisk smell of central air conditioning in my parents’ house…. how you could walk in from the intense heat and humidity of a June day, a final exam behind you…you could turn the brass handle on that wine-red door, hear the whoosh as it opened (I could swear the sound of it was “safe!”) and the BANG as the screen door slammed behind you; then you were instantly surrounded by relief. Cool air. Quiet.
7) Gazpacho. Ice-cold gazpacho, and not the kind that’s lukewarm and doesn’t know if it really wants to be tomato soup.
8) Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. For me, a tennis player, summer is bookended by these two great tennis tournaments; an excuse for binge-watching and shouting at ESPN while they show every point of a boring match in which Andy Roddick is killing some over-matched opponent, but don’t’ show a stroke of the incredibly exciting women’s match happening two courts over.
9) My weekend reunion with my college buddies on the Jersey Shore, which is basically 48 hours of non-stop gabbing extended over other activities: stocking up on provisions (48 diet cokes, bags of chips, Ben&Jerry’s, and everything else), taking walks along the shell-sharp beach, sitting in a semi-circle staring at the horizon, drinking strong coffee, getting dressed up, going out to dinner, having an argument about something inconsequential that gets blown out of proportion, laughing about it.
10) Late summer afternoons on my block, with kids running around across the lawns in their own variations of tag, adults standing around talking, happy to be there, to be outside, in each other’s company. Grateful to be home in time to see each other in daylight. Grateful for summer.

What are you all appreciating?

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43 thoughts on “A Summer Blog — My First Real One!

  1. Well, call me tickled that I get to post the first comment on your blog, Arthur! I will be an avid follower.

    What am I appreciating? Unfortunately, not the wheather…yet! This is Seattle. I’m mostly appreciating a kid who is finally getting healthy and will hopefully be starting swimming lessons in a couple of weeks. I’m also looking forward to seeing my favorite children’s book friends at the SCBWI conference in LA (including you!).

  2. Hi, Arthur! I can’t wait to read your picture book, and I hope you blog about the process of conceiving and writing that.

    You are such a nut for starting with such an amazing blog post, though. Next time, hem and haw a little. Talk about your navel lint, maybe.

    As far as what I’m appreciating… that my kids are small enough for me to carry up the stairs when they fall asleep (even if the 9-year-old feels like she’s made of bricks)… that the rain that’s falling from the Seattle skies every day is at least warm and smells like earth… that school is out and we have lots of extra time for reading and playing on the beach.

    Also, is it wrong that both my kids know my coffee order and can get me refills at the neighborhood cafe? (I appreciate that, and my elder daughter is a huge tipper, which the baristas appreciate.)

    Oh, and I am appreciating the new Jaclyn Moriarty. I just finished it on Saturday. She’s a genius.

    xo!

  3. After the long windy, rainy winter in Northern California, finally being able to sit out in the sun on my patio, writing or editing my manuscript, looking at the large roses surrounding the patio in full bloom, and walking at the park, listening to the large numbers of kids involved in impromptu sports, looking at the stars since it is finally clear, … The roses are a reincarnation of my childhood. Growing up in the desert, two things grew well, roses and elm trees. Some of the roses of my parent’s house predated even my parents, which means they were ancient. I used to like, as a kid, to walk everyday along the rose beds in the summer and try to imagine what the person was like who planted the rose, what was going through their mind when they picked the rose variety. The rose bed told a story, if only I could decode the mystery. The beds and the house has long been bulldozed. But the mystery remains. The mystery of the blue rose. I thought I imagined it. But my sisters remember it too. Yet, the encyclopedia says that true blue roses are the one color breeders cannot create. My rose bed, which in its own way tells its own story, is a memorial to that childhood rose bed. It contains many varieties of “blue” roses though none of them are truly blue (mostly light purple). I can sit out on my patio, in the now warm sun, dreaming of fictional characters and remembering my unsolved childhood mystery, the first mystery story I ever knew.

    1. I love those images, Rusty. And I know what you mean about imagining the folks who planted the roses….the idea that this same beautiful scent could have been shared by a person who’s long gone.

      1. Smells are a funny sense. They are the strongest stimulus for recalling memories. Yet you can’t relive smells. You can remember your impression of them. At the time you perceive the smell, you can form an analogy with something else that smelled similar. But unlike a picture or some music you remember, you can’t remember a smell. You can’t actually play a smell back. Technological devices, which are a mirror of the human mind, can’t play smells back either. There is no device, like a camera, to record the smell. Once you perceive a smell, when the experience is over, so is the smell. It is gone forever. So in order to share the experience, we must take people to the place we experienced the smell or hope they have experienced the same smell. In some sense, keeping a particular variety of rose, is the only way to be able to share that smell with another person. Especially when you consider that old varieties of roses are discarded and new ones bred. Only if you keep the plant can you freeze that moment in time and share the experience you had. So in the case of the blue rose, except for the sisters who saw that rose, I can never share that experience with anyone. That thirty year old variety is gone, whatever it was.

  4. You had me at heat-salt-and-sunscreen smell!

    *Sigh*

    I am one of those teachers who just had to pack it all up last Friday. It’s a surreal existence, those days in between school and summer…trying to find the balance of life again.

    Congratulations on your book. I love the title.

    Shelley

  5. Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always
    been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
    – Henry James

    I’m appreciating three more days of peace and quiet before school gets out and everything gets tossed on its ear.

  6. Feeling the breeze inside the house when all the windows are wide open. The smell that rises from the hot asphalt when the rain finally starts. Staying outside until after nine because it’s still light. Doing the laundry at the end of the week and realizing you only wore socks once.

    Thanks for reminding me to stop and appreciate.

  7. lovely, happy-making post! boy, am i feeling that countdown to the end-of-the-school year right now. i’m looking forward to doing almost everything out-of-doors…all of that incredible free NYC fun…maybe learning how to preserve summer produce…pizza and ice cream more often than should be allowed…girls’ book club meetings in the parks…trying to convince friends that it really *is* worth it, getting to the beach before 6 AM…yes, those sprinklers!…unlocking all of those “key to the city” locks…going somewhere, and then being glad to be back home again.

  8. For me it’s swimming at the city pool, several blocks from my house. I ride my bike there. It’s pedal then paddle, and I call it Shangri-La.

  9. I’m appreciating that I got to spend summer’s first day on a research trip to benefit my WIP. I’ve been nursing this project for many years. (Which is code, of course, for “I haven’t been writing it.”) Now I feel ready to do it justice, and things are moving along. To spend 24 hours away from my computer — many of which were on my feet — learning and DOING things that I know will add depth/truth to my main character . . . well, I spent my late-night drive home feeling grateful that it was the longest day of the year.

    Welcome to bloggy land!

  10. Wow, I love your long blog, I suspect it might get shorter as you get used to blogging but I hope not. Congratulations on your picture book.
    I’m appreciating the anticipation of summer. The deck of our 65 year old cottage sits eighty feet above the Puget Sound near Seattle and it’s been raining and raining and raining. The slugs are conferencing in my garden and every seed we planted has molded.
    But when the sun comes out, everything looks new and dressed in a thousand shades of green and I go out on the deck and fill my lungs with warm sea air and my mind with sunny thoughts and I remember that without the rain, you can’t have a rain forest. It might even get up to 60 degrees today; time to put away the fleece vest! Yeah summer!

  11. Listening to the unique expressions my three-year-old comes up with when she’s talking to her older brother and sister – I love having all of them home.

    Congratulations on your book!

  12. I’m grateful for:

    What it is to have real neighbors in summer! People that mean you can just open your front door first thing in the morning and the kids can run out and suddenly everyone is slip-n-sliding, sprinklering running around and laughing and getting all dirty… so then you get to sit on your porch and drink your coffee. Maybe with ice.

    I’m also grateful for sweaty glasses of sangria. Under colorful lights. In view of kudzu. At dusk.

  13. In New Haven, CT all the flowers are blooming weeks ahead of when they usually do; so it’s summer on speed here–lush and fragrant. Plus, some cardinals, bluejays, chipmunks, and squirrels have all decided my yard is theirs–except during after-school sprinkler and popsicle parties. But my favorite part of summer is Cape Cod.

  14. I appreciate that you’ve joined us in the blogosphere… and not just cuz that means I don’t have to feel guilty about spending time blogging! You raised the bar high with your first post, but that’s no surprise. Great to see ya writing!

    1. Greg, you helped me IMMEASURABLY by asking me to write a poem for your 30 poets gig. That truly helped me recover an important spark, an impulse to put things down in writing. Thank you!!

  15. What a lovely post. You made me want to soak in summertime. (I don’t know if you remember me, Arthur, but you were nice enough to say hello after a panel presentation at BEA–I’m the author of Matched.) It was one of the highlights of my BEA. Thank you for being such a kind individual, and very much look forward to reading your book this time next year!

  16. Thanks Arthur, for giving a deep sense of gratefulness to our summer scenerios.

    I pause and reflect on my husband as he recovers from a night of serious seafood poisoning pain and dehydration.

    Warmly,
    Margo J.
    Cub Run Elementary Librarian
    Virginia

  17. Summer love: Long walks in the evening with my chattering daughter. The cacophony of bug-song that rises and falls with our approach and departure to a wooded thicket. Catching fireflies in my hand and watching the green-yellow light pulse between my fingers. Releasing the firefly only to have it linger on my finger as if for a goodbye kiss before it floats away. Teenagers who sleep late so I can get my writing done and meet my deadlines! :o)

  18. Summer for me is all about the Lightnin’ Bugs. No matter how old I get, I still squeal with excitement whenever I see one or more of them light up on a summer evening.

    Congratulations on your book!

  19. Thank you for this gorgeous post and I’m enjoying the lovely comments, too.
    For me, it’s roasting marshmallows for s’mores over a campfire late at night, somewhere deep in the forest. And you might hear some shouts at ESPN from my house, too, though with all the televised sports options these days, I’m grateful for any tennis coverage. More than watching the pros on TV, I love playing tennis outside in the summer with friends and family, especially singles against my husband whom I can’t beat—yet.

  20. Beautiful post! I’m so glad you’ve joined the blogging community!

    I appreciate the sweet fragrance of roses along the hot brick of the house, freshly mown grass, and the pungent scent of herbs in my garden. I love the high squeals of our kids as we tube across the smooth surface of the lake, the refreshing taste of an ice-cold soda and the feel of the chilly can on my cheek. Flashlight tag, the hum of cicadas, and the warm breeze on the deck at midnight.

    Love this!

  21. Dear Arthur
    As an ex Brit living in the USA Wimbledon is still the pure essence of summer to me. I feel nostalgia washing over me as I tune in – (via the BBC on the internet – hurrah) – and feast upon the lush green courts, the purple logos and towels, expectant English crowds in silly hats and floral dresses troughing strawberries and cream. Robinson’s Barley Water and very correct linesmen. The heady expectation. The anticipation that maybe THIS year, just MAYBE … and then, no, our man – Jeremy, Tim or Andy – beaten once again to the golden trophy by an American, a Swiss or a Spaniard.

    The collective mourning of the nation is comforting and even at 3,000 miles distant I feel I am still part of that something that has always encapsulated the summers of my growing up.

    So now we are waiting for 2011. Right?

  22. Hi, Arthur! I’m so pleased that you have started this blog. It will be a way to feel connected to you. I have my own blog, but not about children’s books — about mindfulness (http://mudandlotus.blogspot.com).

    As for appreciation — I am appreciating, in memory, my sister-in-law’s organic farm and the delicious raspberries, and the rolling farmland of Wisconsin. And the family and good friends who live there.

    Lauren

  23. Wowee. I didn’t know what a good writer you are. What a marvelous clutch of summer memories, full of heart… and I am right there with you.

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