April 25, 2018

My Corner of the Canyon: My Corner of The Summer Country


It’s the second longest day of the year and it feels like it. A good friend spent the night with us and in true pagan mode we were up too late on Midsummer Eve.

Of course, at our age, our late hour reveries were rather tame. No dancing naked around the bonfire, drinking dandelion wine or gamboling with the fairies for us.

We had some tea and watched part of an old movie, Antonioni’s Blowup, which to be fair, was rather wild for its time.

Having been made in 1967, a summer of which Cindy and I are quite fond, we love seeing it again, revisiting our youth, remembering just a bit when we too were young and, yes, beautiful. We try to involve my daughter with the film but she will have none of its dated swinging London. In spite of the daring hour and all of our unabashed gushing over the dashing, young David Hemmings, our holding forth is nothing to rival celebrants at Stonehenge. Right at the moment we sit watching TV, across the Atlantic, there, on Salisbury Plain the Summer Solstice is being welcomed with a raucous revelry of colors, drums, chants, dance, dazzle and daze, which must be as if a dozen Topanga Days have come together. Now wouldn’t that be something! Maybe someday.

Denied any great celebration, I pay my own quiet homage to the turning of the season. I sit for a moment in the early evening gloaming outside on our deck looking for summer magic. I keep one eye open, in hopes of spotting a fairy, staggering home from its own merry rounds. My mountain is over to the left and I worry slightly, that it’s inspiring visibility might eventually be blocked by a rim of trees which seem to grow taller and larger with each passing year, but even if it can no longer be seen I’ll always know it’s there. The wild parrots fly by squawking, their riotous green color caught for a minute in the still light sky of the June evening, as if they were glorious gems animated and taken to flight.

And so they are. I count six of them and take it as a lucky number, it is after all the sixth month of the year. Welcome Summer 2014.

Ah, summer. Did they really used to be longer? They seemed to last forever, those hot, bright endless days where we, maybe all of 8-years-old, would lie on the grass, bored in the mid-afternoon, long before the Internet. We’d grouse back and forth to each other, in those whining kid tones, “There’s nothing to do. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. Do you wanna go swimming?”

“No we did that yesterday.”

“Well what do you want to do?“

“I don’t know. What do you think fourth grade will be like?”

“It will be really hard. I heard Mr. Glickberg is really strict.”

“Yea, my brother didn’t like him. Hey, doesn’t that cloud look a little like Yogi Bear? What do you think happens when you die?”

“I don’t know. I guess you go to heaven, unless you’ve really messed up. Hey, you wanna go to the movies?”

“Na, there’s nothing good. If you get blown up do you still go to heaven? Doesn’t your soul or spirit or whatever blow up too?”

“No. It’s coated, it stays safe.”

“Coated? You mean like in my ski parka?”

“No, like in Tupperware®. Hey, wait! Do you hear it?”

“Yea, it’s the Ice Cream Truck! Let’s go!”

And this was only July. There was just something so expansive about those summers. Yes time slowed down and important questions were addressed. I still ask those questions. Ice cream is still the answer.

Stonehenge was built beginning in 3100 BC. “Who built Stonehenge and why?” is a good question for a summer afternoon. Theories abound and range from Druids, to Romans, from aliens to Satan and my favorite explanation, that Merlin magically transported it from Ireland. Is it a healing place? An astronomical site? A portal to another land? A burial place? Do fairies dance there? Whatever the answer it is undeniably a place of power. Humans are still drawn there, to stand together on that one day and mark the rising of the Solstice sun, the turning of the season, to cheer a moment when they were part of our spinning planet, and bless their hearts, in the 2014 Stonehenge celebration video, I swear I can see hula hoops. Now that’s summer!

Although many run together, there are still summers that stand out. The summer we went to camp, the summer we found the kitty, the summer Cindy’s tooth got knocked out, the vacations at the beach, the summer dad got the ugly Volvo, the summer we were so bored we took a saw and cut a hole in the closet ceiling looking for treasure, the summer I fell in love, that horrible summer of summer school, (biology), the summer we got arrested, the summer the Doors album came out. The days and months that seemed so long and everlasting are now gone, lived through and lived up and I fear this current summer will somehow speed by. I long to slow it down, to stop it for just awhile, to lie on the beach or gather sea glass with my daughter.

I’d love to hear my brother’s voice and play a game of Old Maid with my nephew. I want to marvel at something clever or totally stupid my son says, and see the beleaguered husband catch a wave, free and flying. I want to buy a new blue dress and feel pretty in it. If I can’t get to Stonehenge I at least want to remember to look at the stars in the Topanga sky and rejoice to be living here, fearing no spider. But I live in a whirling world of credit card bills, a dead car battery, health insurance forms, Riley’s upcoming college semester, sales taxes due, an ever-dulling mind and graying roots. I drive Miranda, way too early down our mountain to summer school in Calabasas. Just minutes ago I was still asleep, dreaming. Now I’m negotiating the road and trying to ignore her music, yet seize the moment, all on only one sip of coffee. I deliver her safely. We exchange, ‘Love yous’. As I drive back, I enter a sudden, otherworldly fogbank, a mist that puts me in mind of magical Avalon. Then I remember a place I once read about. The Summer Country. It’s where the elves went when they left this world and headed west across the sea. It’s a place where there is no evil or suffering. There is no time. The men and women who live there never grow old, (like David Hemmings caught forever on celluloid) and all their desires are granted them. Ah, but I know the rules, once you go there you can’t come back. Would I, I wonder, go there? Would I leave everything and all I’ve learned and loved about this world for the glorious, golden glamour of an enchanted realm? I’m pondering what I would do given the choice when I notice the clock on my dashboard is way off. It reads hours earlier. I’m startled and then realize that somehow when the car battery died the day before it must have affected the clock. I glance at my watch. It has stopped. Frozen at 3:30. Suddenly I’m driving through this cloudlike mist and yes somehow, for me at his moment, time has stopped, or at least slowed down. I feel if I were to look with a half-closed eye I might see a door. A door in a tree or the side of a hill. Would I open it and walk through?

­­­Yes, I would. Someday.

Happy Summer To All!