This spring a couple of sparrows made a nest at the top of the wreath on my porch french doors. Over the weeks of chilly, wet days I watched as mom and dad built the nest, brooded on eggs and attentively fed and nurtured the two young birds who chirped and fluttered their way into the world. This is a parable of summer spirituality.
1. Accept the Invitation. In the warmth of summer we are typically more active than at any other time of the year. Nature openly and outwardly invites us to share in her beauty and bounty. Even as the flowers of spring fade the fruit of summer comes within reach. Nature is a portal to the awakened life. It invites observation and delight and amazement and not just a little awe. In the summer season we spend far more time out of doors and we travel. We go beyond the routines of our day to day life and seek adventure and novel experience. Our inner lives give way to outer exploration. We reach beyond ourselves to connect to realms of life that are far more spacious than our living quarters. The openness of the clear blue expanse and the depth of the stars in the summer night sky tease our imaginations toward spheres of curiosity and wonderment. We are open to possibility. We invite and expect adventure. We expand beyond our self-defined boundaries. And in both the invitation and its acceptance we are poised to see God in all that can be seen.
2. Enjoy the sweetness of balance. For many of us, women in particular, the ingestion of sweets are akin to mortal sin. We would really love to indulge but we've been culturally shaped into self-denial as if it were an ascetic practice upon which our salvation depends. But in the ancient practice of Ayurveda, sweet is one of balancing qualities for the summer heat. Those of us who are by our nature more fiery in our temperament can be easily aggravated by the swelling heat of the summer and require the antidote that sweetness provides. The fruits of summer, cherries, berries and melons, offer us cooling comfort as do grains, like rice and barley, fresh grown herbs, sweet potatoes, raw sugar cane and maple syrup. A cool glass of cucumber coconut water with a splash of lime in the heat of a summer day has more in common then you might imagine with the Balm of Gilead. There is a balance that must be sought or we burn up. We are generally not trained to seek balance with food, much less to think of this as a spiritual practice. Sometimes we blunder into it, or intuit our way there, if we are lucky. When we are without sweetness in the diet we become equally deplete of the sweeter qualities of our humanity, of kindness and mercy, of thoughtfulness. In the absence of a balanced palate, desires can rage internally; frustration and impatience, we rush prematurely to judgment and impulsive action. The spiritual life encompasses every aspect of our lives; our physical bodies and mental states are the outer expression of our internal state of affairs. To deny balance in any part of our delicate web, during any season, does not serve us well, but it is never so sweet to remedy than in the summer.
3. Give it your all. The one thing that is very obvious in the temperate climate of summer is that the beings of the natural world give of themselves completely. Flowers bloom explosively; bees work tirelessly collecting pollen and hives drip honey. Grass grows at an astounding rate bursting into full heads of seed. Trees are loaded with green leaves drinking in the fullness of the summer sun in preparation for the winter to come. Birds, now finished with the work of parentage, busy themselves with summer activity; flocks move around from place to place, happily splashing around in small pools of late afternoon downpours. Vines quickly extend and wrap themselves with ease and speed around trees and shrubs and posts, rocks and structures. Fruit ripens on branch and vine; the sweetness draws to itself the two-legged, the four legged and the feathered ones. Gardens produce abundantly offering much to share with family and friends. Farmers' markets overflow with lush bounty; buyers mouths water at the sight of strawberries, blueberries, tender lettuce and greens and the first summer squashes and cucumbers sell out. Tadpoles have morphed into frogs and feed hungrily on mosquitos and grasshoppers; opossums gorge on ticks; firefly beetles offer a show for potential mates on still, humid summer evenings, spiders create elaborate webs in branches and across carpets of grass to feed on the summer's abundance of insects; butterflies have their fill of flower nectar and lay their eggs on leaves. The Praying Mantis mates and then eats her mate. Bees build nests and in-lay the larvae of their offspring. This is but a tiny fraction, a single brush stroke of a frenzy of summer activity all around us. Everything in the height of the summer season gives its all for the continuation of life, for the full variety of life that lies far beyond its own; each an intricate part of the whole. Every creatures, plant and animal, goes to great lengths mobilizing and focusing all its strength to finish the work it came to do in this opportune moment. Nature is not distracted or concerned with other things; it is single-minded and task-oriented. It does not stop until the season's inevitable change calls for a slow cessation.
There is a season for resting and sleeping, for going within, and there is a season for slowing and taking stock of where we are, of preparing for what is next, and there is a season for rebirth, regeneration, to begin again. The summer season reminds us that we, like all our relations, are at times called to give our all; to be focused and undeterred and tireless in our work for the sustenance, or perhaps the survival, of that which lies beyond ourselves, even beyond our understanding or knowing. The bee does not know of the healing balm of its honey to its human co-habitant; it only knows to collect the pollen and bring it to the hive. It does not need to know.
In early summer the newborn birds of spring's gestation fly from their nest singing as they go.
Reflections on the other three seasons may be found here: