Thoughtful (adjective) 1. Absorbed in or involving thought 2.meditative 3. Characterized by careful reasoned thinking.
--Merriam Webster’s Dictionary
Twelve days and counting until the end of summer. I know the almanac notes that summer does not officially end until September 22nd, some three weeks hence but the truth is that for most of us summer, the trappings of summer, the feeling of summer, and the precious gift of summer: these usually fade on that first Tuesday after Labor Day. That day when the year really begins. When we return to school and work and familiar routines. When we pack away summer clothes and memories and lean into the busyness of fall and all its new beginnings. So in preparation for this summer swan song, take a moment and think: what are the blessings of summer that you appreciate the most and will miss the most? As summer fades, what do you need to hang on to, maybe even bring from this season into the weeks and months ahead?
Maybe it's the tastes of summer which for you evoke most sensually the thrill of summer. The sharp tang of mustard on a snappy hot dog, sweet drippy watermelon juice on the chin, or the bite of a cold beer as reward after a hot afternoon working in the yard or garden. Perhaps it is the sounds of summer you'll especially miss. The crack of a ball on bat, the boom and pop of fireworks, or the lullaby of crickets chirping at dusk. As a visual person summer may be all about what you see: the lush green of the lawn at Fenway Park, foamy whitecaps breaking on a stormy sea, or the rainbow of hues in your flower bed. Me? I’ll most certainly miss all those things as this season ends and yet, the summer present from God I’ll most miss is this: thoughtfulness. Not the kindness kind, though God knows the world could always use TLC.
Thoughtfulness, as in finding the time to be immersed in thought. Thoughtfulness: discovering space in this life to breathe, to think, to ponder, to daydream, to consider, to wonder, to just be "thought-full". That's what this summer and all summers give to me, with their less hectic pace and less cluttered calendar. It is as if for two months a year the Creator gives me a hall pass, and allows, even expects me to just chill out, slow down and remember the miracle of spacious thought. So I find time on my back porch in a battered and worn Adirondack chair to read and write, no schedules pushing me onward. I rediscover the gift of unplanned moments to ponder, or maybe even just daydream. I cherish the grace of being away somewhere, which just by its geographic newness somehow gives me permission to break out of my routines. Did you find some time this summer to be thoughtful? To rest. To loll under puffy white clouds and wonder. To encounter nature and see some reflection of God. To put down and turn off the smartphone, the I-Pad, the laptop and trade the virtual for the real.
September, with all its incessant demands and commitments, each year seems to try its best to rob us of such intentional thoughtfulness. The ninth month can feel for many of us like we are boarding a speeding roller coaster and whoosh right back into the race, with little time to think and so much to do. This is the curse of our modern life, if we are not careful. Filling up every waking moment with something to do or someone to see. Scheduling our kids with wall to wall activities until their heads spin. Feeling guilty if we are not accomplishing something, anything. Or worst of all, mistaking busyness in life with meaning in life. Sound familiar? You are not alone.
The gift of a faith tradition is that a connection to God and true life meaning always asks for and requires human thoughtfulness. Try as we might we cannot multi-task and also find our center in the Holy One. To get to God and spiritual calmness we have to be thoughtful about how we live. Thoughtful so we can take an hour on a Sunday morning or Friday night for worship. Make the time to pray in the morning or do yoga after work. Find the time to meditate or write, to do the things which bring us back to our center. Just slow down and stop moving ahead so instinctively to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing.
Summer’s simple lesson is this: be thoughtful, and not just from June to September, but all year around too. And so as the days wind down and we go back to school or work or what ever looms just up ahead, my prayer is that each of us can try our best to bring summer thoughtfulness into the weeks and months ahead. We may not be able to drag that hammock into autumn, or return to our favorite vacation spot until next year, but we can make a promise to ourselves that this year we will be more thoughtful.
Think about it. And see you in September.