Let’s create summers of wonder.
I have such distinct memories of my childhood summers — distinct, but also running together like fuzzy scenes out of a nostalgic home movie as I replay them in my head. Running through sprinklers in my front yard wearing a bathing suit that, for some reason, had the Coca-cola logo all over it. Playing kick the can with neighbors in our cul-de-sac, and whipping around on our bikes in the evening dusk as our parents chattered together on a driveway. Riding horses on family trips to Wyoming to visit our grandparents, or long afternoons on a rocky Atlantic beach in Massachusetts. Endless hours of reading on the screen porch, ceiling fan whirring and cicadas humming in the background. As I got older, afternoons with friends in my car and aimless driving, windows down, 90s rock blasting, or weekends spent wandering the air-conditioned tiled walkways of the local mall, sipping on Frappuccinos and eating packs of Twizzlers, absorbing the latest summer blockbuster (or in reality, seeing Titanic for like the 7th time).
Man, summers used to be great.
Flash forward a few decades. Summers are like… every other season. That’s sort of the sad reality as an adult. There’s a lot more sweating involved, but not the fun exertion of running around your yard and then jumping in a pool afterwards — it’s more like sweating on your way to work and your suit jacket is sticking to you for the rest of the day. Sure, there may be more vacations, but they’re short, and eventually you’re going back to your routine. The season inevitably loses some of its magical qualities — if not all of them. There’s a grind to summer for adults. It’s a fact.
Well, I want this summer to be different.
I was thinking the other day — as it poured chilly rain, yet again, in what has seemed like a never-ending last gasp of DC’s winter — that I’ve had such success with the concept of Sunday Adventures, that could I apply it to… an entire season?
Between that, and listening to the concept of Gretchen Rubin’s 18 for 2018 — basically a list of 18 things you want to accomplish this year — I had the spark of an idea.
I’m calling it the Summer 16.
The idea is pretty simple. Pick 16 things you want to do in the summer that will enhance the season for you… and do them. Why 16? Why not? I’m a fan of alliteration. Six seemed too little, and 60 too many. Plus, there are about 16 weekends in a standard summer, so you can space out your delights each week.
Anyways, your Summer 16 could involve something as simple as going to your local farmers’ market one weekend and buying the best tomato you see, or reading one book in an afternoon. (They could also be complex, but I find it’s easier to knock off easy tasks, and you may be surprised to find that these “simple” tasks can bring you as much joy as the larger, more complicated ones.)
So what should your Summer 16 be? Well, you’ve got some time to brainstorm because summer in the northern hemisphere starts June 21. But this is how I suggest approaching the list: Walk around for a few days and scribble ideas in a notepad. Write down whatever comes to mind, as silly or mundane or aspirational as it seems. It’s just a list right now, not a commitment, so let your mind play.
It might also help to pick a “theme.” I’m a big fan of applying words, or themes, to years or seasons. This is a trick I learned from a women in technology listserv I’m on. Each January, women send out their “themes” for the year — they’ve ranged from themes of “Less,” to “the Year of Self Care,” to “Be More Curious” to “Savor.” The idea is that picking a theme instead of specific goals will give you a broader approach to the year ahead and the ability to infuse all you do and choose to do with that idea in mind.
I picked a theme for my Summer of 16: Wonder. When I think back to those memories of my childhood summers, I felt so much joy and delight and astonishment. I want to bring back a little of that sense of wonder into my adult summers, too. So when I was thinking what items to put on my Summer 16, I told myself they could be anything, but they just had to spark a sense of wonder in me when I thought about them.
Ready to see my Summer 16? Here you go:
- Eat a soft serve ice cream cone from the stand in Union Market. The Trickling Springs Creamery stand there has dairy products from Amish Country, and their soft serve is supposed to be some of the best in the city.
- Swim in a body of water that’s not a pool.
- … But go to my neighborhood pool at least once. (I live right by a wonderful city pool and the last three summers, have not managed to visit a single time!)
- Go kayaking (not on the Potomac, which is a watery littered crowded hellscape in the summer, but a more remote body of water).
- Visit Dumbarton Oaks. (This is a gorgeous landscaped mansion garden in Georgetown. I’ve visited once, but only had an hour to power walk through — I want to take an afternoon and linger.)
- Catch fireflies with my niece and nephews.
- Visit the newish nanobrewery not far from my house (I just learned nanobreweries are a thing!), the Public Option.
- Go to the Dupont Circle farmers market and make dinner from what I buy. (This seems ~basic~ but I literally never do it and end up regretting it every summer.)
- Make ice cream with fresh fruit. (I’m thinking strawberries. I have an ice cream maker and I really like using it, but it’s been a couple of years since it’s seen serious action.)
- Sleep under the stars for a night. (AKA, go camping.)
- Go berry picking.
- Go to a DC festival. (I’m thinking either the annual H Street Festival or the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which can be a bit lame but I have a soft spot for it.)
- See a summer movie blockbuster on opening night. (I’m thinking Ocean’s 8 — anybody in?)
- Get a tattoo. (Don’t worry mom, just a small one, in a place that corporate America cannot see.)
- Go to a county fair.
- Spend an entire afternoon in Dupont Circle on a blanket reading.
That’s it! They’re all pretty simple, but they feel quintessentially summer to me. I imagine these may be subject to change, but these things — everything from a simple ice cream cone to a new neighborhood bar to reading literally all afternoon — feel so wonderful and inspiring to me right now.
So I’ve got my plan. What about yours? Will you create a Summer 16 list? I’d love to hear what’s on it. I’ll be detailing my Summer 16 adventures in my newsletter each week when summer kicks in officially later in June, so stay tuned to hear how they go.