Appreciating summer can be difficult

By Breeda Bennett-Jones
Nation & World Editor

Much to the chagrin of my peers, I don’t look forward to summer vacation.

Stating this is practically anti-American of me. American culture celebrates summer as a blissful and long-awaited break from school, and understandably so. It certainly has its elements of liberation and spontaneity. Yet when Shakespeare posited, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I doubt we had the same idea in mind.

Summer, to me, is the embodiment of wasted time. I think it’s counterintuitive to have two extravagant months free of academic responsibility.

I know I’m not the only person who enjoyed primary school, at least to some extent, and missed doing fun classroom activities and being on the playground with my friends. In high school, having the summer off meant I felt like I was going backwards. I felt overwhelmed in September after 10 weeks of forgetting Spanish verb conjugations and the meticulousness of scholarly writing.

Summer vacation is a lengthy break from academics. (Flickr)

While the summers of my elementary school days were full of euphoric play, swim lessons, ice pops and biking around my neighborhood, summer during high school was about finding jobs, saving money, studying for the SAT and on rare occasions, taking a trip to the mall or down the shore. The heat that I previously rejoiced in basking in suddenly seemed unbearable, especially when combined with the stress of the impending school year. I was instantly disenchanted.

Yet despite its downfalls, summer always evokes a lot of nostalgia for me. My time at home allows me to reconnect with family, explore creative endeavors and admire the reawakening of nature. Nothing beats being able to read or play piano whenever I want, eating barbecue in the shade of my backyard, driving with the windows down and waking up to sun streaming through my blinds.

The beauty of summer is also the muse for many of my favorite works of art. George Gershwin’s operatic “Summertime,” Maurice Ravel’s ethereal “Jeux d’Eau,” Sue Monk Kidd’s breathtaking novel “The Secret Life of Bees” and more famous works like “The Great Gatsby” and “The Sun Also Rises” somehow manage to romanticize summer’s intolerable heat and dangerously undulant evenings. I deeply admire these artists’ ability to take such a grueling season and see its virtues.

At long last, maybe summer isn’t as bad as I thought. When I think again, summer is a time for reflection, relaxation and rejuvenation. Maybe, as penned by Yeats in “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” one of my favorite poems, “I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings.”

Though I despise the length of the break and the stifling humidity that blankets the Northeast, I am excited for the opportunity it holds, the beauty it emanates and the stillness that cascades from the top of July until the first cold morning in September.

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