August 9. “Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought. Our brightest blazes are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.” (Samuel Johnson)
To those who know me it is no secret that I love summer. This time of year is when I seem to thrive most. Long days with abundant sunshine feed my soul in ways that I cannot begin to describe.
When I was a child, I loved summer just as much as I do today. I grew up playing baseball at every possible opportunity. Even when there were only a handful of friends available, we would invent ways to make the game work. In the spring, when the snow melted and the temperatures started to rise, I would begin to anticipate that first day of summer vacation, free of the rigor of school, and ready to play ball all day.
As I am sitting here this morning, I am recalling a few key moments from all those summers. They are moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but which bring me great joy in their memories, true examples of this quote.
I can remember the first day of summer vacation for one year. I don’t remember the year, or exactly how old I was, but I am guessing I was around 11 years old. I distinctly remember waking up early on that first morning of vacation. My body was used to getting up early for school, so no alarm or call from my mom was necessary to wake me. It was just after dawn on a warm, early June morning. We had no air conditioning, so I’d slept with my window open. I remember lying in bed for a few minutes listening to the sounds of birds in the nearby trees, and the sound of rail cars banging together at the train yards a few miles away. In that moment, life felt very perfect indeed.
Another memory has to do with going to an amusement park. I grew up near Cedar Point, which is one of the premier amusement parks in the US. Every year my god parents would take my mother and I there for a day. It was a good 90 minute drive to get there, and we would always stop to eat along the way at a restaurant called The Old Prague. My mom and godmother were sure that it was the right thing to do so we didn’t have to eat all that awful park food during the day.
The night before that annual trip I almost never got good sleep. As an adult I have sometimes referred to anxious anticipation as being “Cedar Point excited”. To me that described the feeling even better than the way I would feel on Christmas Eve. The night before the trip was magic. I would lie awake dreaming of what rides I would be on, how the sun would feel, and so on. But of all the times I went there, the memory that sticks with me the strongest has nothing to do with the rides themselves.
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my mom told me that I would be allowed to go on the rides by myself. We didn’t bring along a friend for me to hang out with, so I was truly on my own. I was told what time and where to meet me mom, but for the next several hours I was my own person. At this point in my life there hadn’t been too many opportunities for independence. My mom always kept me close at hand. In years previous she would walk with me through the day, and while I stood in line for a ride, she’d be parked on a bench waiting for me (she didn’t like any fast rides, and roller coasters were a definite no for her). So when this particular bit of freedom was sent my way, it seemed to me to be the greatest gift I ever received. To this day I can remember walking the park by myself, riding the rides, and enjoying life. That bit of pleasure derived from my independence was greater than the rides themselves.
I am not sure if any of this was what Samuel Johnson had in mind with this quote, but it is what comes to mind for me today.
I am up early today on the first day of my camping vacation. Soon we will be busy with packing the car, hitching the camper and driving to our spot. I am excited for the trip, and I didn’t sleep well last night. I guess you could say that I am “Cedar Point” excited for this trip. There are many things I am looking forward to doing. I will bet that at the end of this trip I will look back at some seemingly insignificant event and point to it as the thing I enjoyed most.
Today my reflection is on living in the moment, and being completely aware of the amazing things happening around me.