It is that time of year that the school bell will ring for the last time and children will no longer have to be seated by a bell that rings, first. On this verge of summer, when the days are long and the nights are damp and the sun burns brightest, early, kids and those that village-kids, fan out and go become the kids of summer.
Once upon a time summer was a place that kids labored and worked and summer was a place that you found shade and bare feet in the creek. Modern summer, looks nothing like once-upon-a-time summer. There are camps and curriculums and travel sports venues and there is also this trendy-trend of being connected, technologically and socially. Thus, there are less bare feet in the creek and shade seekers and so this modern summer looks nothing like the once-upon-a-time summer.
In a culture where we have crafted words like sustainability and local and organic and native, it is illogical to this writer that the outdoors is being sought less and less by our youth. Youth find much more exhilaration in scrolling through a news feed and or marking-up a clever photograph, than placing bare hands to the wet ground to measure palm against a raccoon track. Youth today scamper from activity to activity, connected and quiet, eyes peering onto a screen and thumbs working electronic magic, seemingly ignorant to the world around them.
There are less red and white corks being purchased these days and soft drinks from a glass bottle are not as cool as flavored water and nobody gets excited about turning over a board, that has been left in a shady spot beneath an oak tree, and collecting a dozen red worms, anymore.
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Summer used to be that magical place where a boy would wedge a nail into the end of a tobacco stick, saw the head from the nail and then patrol the pond bank in the evening to look for a frog for a proper gigging. Summer used to be a place that one could sit on the tailgate of a truck and bare feet would be tickled by the grass and an eight-ounce bream would captivate your inner captivation, while it tried to swallow, whole, one of those last few red worms you found beneath the board, in the shady spot, beneath the oak tree, one hour ago. Summer was about rocking chairs and lightening bugs and mason jars and suddenly, there is light. Summer was about laughing with cousins in the yard and playing tag and hide and seek and using your hunting skills to hide and never be found, ever. And summer was about crickets providing the lyrics and bull frogs providing the melody and the slow and methodical creak of a rocking chair providing rhythm, to countless hours on the front porch, watching countless stars in the sky, where countless dreams were cast, and countless days and years later, bull frogs provide melody and crickets bring the lyrics and you miss that methodical creak of a rocking chair, honest.
For this writer and observer of nature and humans and stars, what we need in summer is less of what we don’t need and more of what we should not live without. We need our youth muddy at the feet. We need dirt between the nails. We need girls to giggle and fall in love while their boyfriend baits worm to hook and he needs to be the hero when he helps her set the hook and tells her to reel.
Summer is a niche of a place where a child’s imagination is sponge like and it may just be that the best education and use of this is not to be structured and or to be at the game an hour before the start and that it is really ok to put the screen down and to look out the window and to be open to the openness of nature.
When the bell rings in a few days on those last days of school, let it be possible that human kids find their way into the mud and the shade and that bare feet be tickled by the grass. Let it be that the summer of used-to-be becomes the summer of countless stars and that shade seekers laugh and that bull frogs bring that proper melody.
Enjoy your time outdoors.