There should be a name for a mythical creature that thrives on the searing heat of summer, a vampire in reverse. If such a creature existed, I would be it.
Put me on a whitewashed, wooden deck at high noon in the thick of a southern heat wave. Give me a baseball cap to obscure my sunglass-laden eyes and a skirt to strategically hike up, gathered between my legs as I soak up the sun. Play Laguna Pai on whatever speakers you can find, and let the music of the water wash over us. I will not be movable. With each bead of sweat that takes the journey from the nape of my neck to the blanched territory below, I will dive deeper, sloughing off stress and anxiety as I go.
There is no freedom like the passage of a slow summer Saturday. Morning breaks with clarity beaming from the sky. There is caffeine in the mild heat of morning and the luxury to sit outside, waiting for an impulse of wakefulness to stir. High noon calls for cooling shade, and afternoon demands a nap. Evenings are exquisite, requiring not a single layer of long-sleeved cotton to keep even the most cold-blooded among us warm.
And then there are the gatherings, a seemingly endless march of celebrations paying tribute to art and beer, spice and wine each one with a live music soundtrack that pulses from city block to neighborhood bar to back-porch songwriter.
East Nashvilles very own Tomato Art Fest is the crown jewel of summer frivolity for those of us not inclined to spend an afternoon with the upper crust, wearing $300 hats. Forget the Derby. Give me a cacophony of band stages and earthen jewelry, foodies taking the day off from snobbery, and hipsters too sweaty to be hip.
At last summers Tomato Art Fest, I finished the 5K triumphant; lingered at the doggie fashion show; picked up a vintage purse along the way; and pet a baby owl who appeared to be watching the passing parade of tomato-adorned merrymakers with suspicion. I ended the day on my porch again, in the heat under the stars, with the sound of bands and their fans carousing a block away.
Summer is expansive. It is for reaching beyond boundaries. Its a time of year when health comes naturally, as do revelry and abandon. With the heat comes a natural proclivity to eat cool, whole food salads, fruit, and grains supplemented with beer, white wine, and frozen concoctions. A grand and effortless balance.
We step out of our houses when sunshine and music beckon, calling us forth and turning the inward chill of winter out. We share rhythms with strangers at outdoor concerts and raise our arms to the stars, wondering if it gets much better than this. We hover in the humidity.
As someone who didnt discover until my 30s that I am a contented, card-carrying introvert, I am just now learning the additional, hidden value of summer. It brings a brilliant collection of social easements for solitary souls who might be most likely to spend the bulk of their time buried under dusty stacks of LPs or books. Beyond the wonderfulness of warm air, friends, family, and fresh food, there are built-in barriers erected to keep people like us comfortable where otherwise we might not be.
Hats and sunglasses allow for quiet, studied observation. Large festivals allow for anonymous wandering. If it takes all afternoon for me to choose whether to purchase a jade necklace or a pendant crafted from petrified wood, no one notices or cares. The energy around us is too forceful for anyone to focus on me and my existential crisis stone or wood, stone or wood?
And, finally, there is the music that spawns collective togetherness without requiring that a word be spoken.
As Nashvillians, we make music in our basement studios year round, but summer pulls it out in the open, ripe for sharing. It reaches far beyond our pavilion and tomato stages. By the time the next summer solstice rolls around, lyrics and melodies written on Music City summer nights will make their way to AfrikaBurn and Roskilde, Bumbershoot and Pitchfork uniting us all in daylight and rhythm.
When winter returns, I will once again resume my bitter battle against the cold. I will wrap myself in layers upon layers of down and wool. My shoulders and chin will turn inward, and my belly will likely expand under the cover of night. But until then, I will savor the ease of summer, moving freely through the heat, sweaty and content. Wellness will come easily, steeped in vitamin D. I will find health by nature, not by force.
These many months before temperatures drop below 60 at sundown, you will find me on my porch. If you come for a visit, bring music and settle in for the night. Know that my periodic silences are nothing more than passing prayers set adrift with a smile: May the heady days of summer last us all year. You and me and summer makes three.