Five bunches of peonies have made their way into my house over the past two weeks. And I’ve been really holding back. I’ve mentioned my vase-collecting-flower-loving habits before, but there are certain seasons where I go hog wild. Like when peonies show up. If I don’t enjoy their tight little bundles (soon to be bursting blooms) now, I will miss them. They come and go so quickly that I forget about them until a year later when I waltz into the store and there they are, just waiting for me. All tight and full of surprise.
Summer has so many of these momentary delights. Strawberries piled on every fruit stand in town and salads made from backyard gardens. The smell of charcoal from the neighbor’s yard that can get me in the car headed to buy steaks in a heartbeat. Beach towels that are either in the wash or around our bodies, never making it back into the linen closet. Days of camping with nothing else to do but enjoy the streams and the trails and the people sitting around the campfire.
We revel in these moments because we know that just as quickly as they came, they’ll be gone. Things are sweeter when we yearn for them. Sights, smells, tastes and encounters that we don’t take for granted. Instead, we anticipate, we look forward to and then we savor.
There’s something I love about a fleeting experience. The kind you wish lasted forever, but wouldn’t be so special if it did. Like the nights as a kid when we’d play our neighborhood-created game called “Capture” while it was still light out and warm at 9pm. And the times my mom would come to the front deck with little milkshakes for all the kids. My small self must have savored those nights because I can remember them like they were yesterday. The golden threads of summer.
Summertime is still magical to me, but I love that seasons change. When I begin to tire of the heat, the fall chill shows up in the air and almost immediately my husband starts talking about all the soups he wants to make. We drive by football practices on the field, start planning for weekends in the mountains and shop for lunch boxes and new shoes. Pumpkin Spice Lattes show up on the menu and are only available for a limited time- because the Starbucks marketing team understands how we are wired.
This rhythm of yearning and savoring can be good for relationships too. My husband and I learned this while spending the first 6 summers of our marriage living in different towns. I (and eventually the kids with me) moved for 3 months each year to Forest Home where I worked. A large part of my job was to live on grounds and help run summer camp, while my husband’s job as a pastor required his presence back at church. We made the 2 hour drive regularly to be with each other and created a plan that worked. During those summers, our time together as a couple was rare so we planned ahead and fiercely protected that time. We had some of the sweetest dates and best conversations and we didn’t take it for granted. We made time count, we tried every sushi restaurant in both towns. We savored it.
Our summers of crazy are gone now and these days the majority of our time is spent together. As our family grew it felt like too much absence and we longed to be more present, especially with our kids. Now that we’re home all summer, I miss that feeling of coming home each week and loving every little thing. No mice in the cupboards or bears breaking into the kitchen, not eating every meal with a couple hundred people-just a clean house, home cooked food and the coziness of my family. Things I so quickly take for granted.
I love staying home with my kids, but I am rarely without them and it wears on me. It’s amazing how happy I am to see them after just an hour at the gym’s kids club. I need that hour for so many reasons, but especially so I can appreciate them the rest of the day. A little time away brings perspective and draws out the desire to savor. My husband and I try to get away as a couple a few nights each year (presence for our marriage, absence for our kids) and it’s healthy for all of us. When we are apart, the things we love most in each other come to the surface and we yearn for time together again. It’s like the houseguest that starts to get on your nerves toward the end of a long stay, but as soon as they’re gone you miss them and excitedly plan their next visit.
The balance is important, relationships need to breathe in and out. If there is too much absence, we lose connection and miss the magic in the mundane of everyday life. Too much presence and we get nit-picky and forget to appreciate the reasons we love each other.
Take some time to savor the things of summer before they’re gone. Plan a camping trip, eat lots of watermelon, plant some vegetables. On Saturday, June 21st you will see more sunlight than any other day all year so be outside to enjoy it. You’ll be yearning for it come January when it’s dark by 4:30. Stay up late to watch a meteor shower, spend all day in your swimsuit. Evaluate the breathing of your relationships. Is there too much absence? Not enough? Make a date night happen. Get some one on one time with your kids, your sister, your best friend. Carve out time for solitude.
Yearning and savoring are good for the soul.