Summer is one of the most evocative times for me. Maybe it's from growing up in a place where it's summer year-round, where sand is always stuck between your toes and 100+ temperatures are part of what we breathed from the time we came hurdling out into the world.
When the temperatures skyrocket, I'm transported to another time. And I don't think I'm alone. So, I want to curate 35 views of summer this season.
Why 35? It's my 35th go at this season.
Some of the entries will be mine, but I'd love to include other perspectives, people answering this question:
What does summer mean to you? Or, Summer Is _____________.
It might be a few sentences, a video, a photo or poem. A conversation, a moment, a song, a dish. A point in time shared with a friend, or alone, a moment that says, "summer." You know the ones.
It doesn't have to be in Birmingham. It just has to be about what we do when things get hot, and when we have (or don't have) a lull in our ordinary routines. The space where we go to play, or create, or put up an inflatable pool in the backyard and pretend we're in Maui. The natural pause in the year.
There are several other reasons I want to launch this now. First, because most conversations where I live now begin with something about how bad the heat is, already, so early in the summer. People are talking about how to pass these months. So why not take the thing that so many people are grumbling about, and flip it? Why not share those summer memories about how we beat the heat, and how we passed the time, and how we grew (grow) when days aren't punctuated by the formality of the other three seasons?
Plus, selfishly, it's a way for me to start writing about this season that has always taken up space in my heart. So it's a short-term writing project. Come with?
If you're interested in submitting something, please leave a comment or write me @erinshawstreet.
I'll be posting several times a week. So, grab a cold beverage and let me know ... what is summer to you? Here's my first, but not in any particular order. Join in.
Summer Is Library Book Sales
At the height of the summer, the sweetest place to be in Clearwater, FL was the main public library. The whoosh of air came barreling out the automatic doors, and the whiff of musty old books filled my lungs. Promise.
http://electrospark.blogspot.com/ forgotten architecture
The library was facing the water and the beach, separated only by a narrow draw bridge. My back was to the beach when I walked in, past the 1970s paintings of boats hanging on the entrance walls. (You could check out the art. As in take it home and hang it. As a little girl, I was intrigued by this prospect, and that of someone who might change out their artwork every three weeks -- or be busted by the librarians and their Dewey Decimally organized selves.)
During the summers, I made two turns. To the left I walked to circulation, signing the volunteer log and assuming my position cataloging books and signing up other children for the summer reading programs. (It confused me that people wanted to compete for prizes like erasers and koozies. Wasn't the prize reading?)
To the right of the entrance was the Friends of the Library Room, where, for weeks at a time, I helped organize books that would be sold. Boxes and boxes of musty books, those that didn't sell in the frequent estate sales. This was Clearwater, Florida, after all, where people went to spend their "leisure years," leaving their books to sons and daughters who apparently didn't share their love of "Fondue Treasure" compendiums from the late 1960s. But I sure did.
I loved the library year-round, winning poster and essay contests about the various treasures one could find there (microfiche!) It was long before the Internet, when encylopedia salesmen came to your classroom with literature insinuating if you didn't have a Full Encylopedia Set at your disposal you'd be an academic failure. At the prospect of a piece of Mt. Saint Helens dangled by said salesman, I spent hours in the library, researching an obscure question about magma.
But that was during the school year. During the summer, the library was full of promise. The stacks were a microcosm of the world, a world beyond my suburban cul-de-sac, and Catholic school education. And the possibilities were ... endless.
At the booksale, I helped the volunteers with the bifocals, alphabetizing books and handing boxes to the patrons. And I flipped through volumes, the history I would need to know someday to make it outside the library walls, away from the safety of Southridge Drive, the street where I was raised. At a booksale you could buy it, make it yours, put that book on your shelf and have it forever.
So summer to me is about library book sales. Of being a small, curious girl. Walking into the Birmingham Public Library and its summer book sale I feel that same rush.
I find a vintage cookbook, that brings me home. The air rushes in.
It's about a vintage alphabet book, published in 1964, but landing in my hands in 2011.
When I picked up the alphabet book, I opened it to this page. And 12-year old girl with a blonde ponytail smiled. She was almost 35. She smiled at the library volunteers, paid, and walked into the Alabama heat.
And the summer was just starting ...