Summer Puzzle

As summer comes to an end, I’m preparing for our return to lessons and our homeschooling rhythm. I’ve walked in my mind through the seasons of the year, planning for the changes that will unfold in the months to come. The year of seasons forms a cycle like breathing; expansion at the summer solstice like a great out-breath and contraction at the winter solstice like a deep in-breath. The changes around us affect our moods and energy-level too.

Lately, summers bring us more and more expansive fire here in California, unfortunately, so different from the controlled burns of earlier times, which made summer and fall fiery. I like to think of the upwelling from the ocean as expansion, though it brings us fog which feels more inward, drifting down to the ground and and causing us to huddle together. This year I’m thinking about the autumn acorn harvest and salmon run as traditional elements of the turning year, acorns ripening and falling and salmon returning to their home rivers where they were born, guided by man-made bonfires traditionally. Our winter is inward because it is dark and rainy — the rain falls down to earth, although the forests and meadows are very green, lush, growing, but in a slow and steady way, not like spring. Our spring is explosively growing and alive, bursting upward — our meadows turn green and full of flower color. The wildflowers and grasses grow, bloom, and burst with seeds all in the spring. Then they become golden in the hot and dry summer.

Summer is always my puzzle — the heat is expansive but the coastal fog here is more inward, so it’s confusing. Plus, animals burrow into the earth and plants draw back into their roots to survive the dry season. And now that we have severe droughts and fire danger (both new in the last century or two since European arrival, plus climate change) the summer has a quality of danger, fear, of wariness, rather than being joyful and carefree.

I have been learning more about the Jewish fasting days and observances for this time of year, the Three Weeks and Tish B’Av. In Israel the desert summer is burning hot, and we remember when the temples burned, and the many other misfortunes that all happened on the same dates of the Jewish calendar. I don’t feel adequate to explain it well, but here’s an article that summarizes the observances, and here is a beautiful one about their meanings.

It’s a time of being wary, extra cautious and careful, and there is so much to ponder, so much. For me, how in sad or scary times do we keep actively moving forward with an eye towards a hopeful and joyful future. There was a phrase a friend used that I keep thinking of — the season “when emotions are close to the surface.” As I prepare for third grade with my daughter all of this takes on another meaning, too, in preparing to tell the Torah stories to my nine year old. But also I keep thinking about the golden calf, which occurred on one of the dates within the Three weeks.

Here are some summer moments from our side of the world. Warm jackets, I know, a shocker!! It has been an especially wintery San Francisco summer.
Midsummer Bonfire (and Tiptoes Lightly’s Midsummer Mouse adventures were read over and over):


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