Summer Days

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By: 
Matt Geiger

I was driving in my new old pickup truck yesterday, blasting “Land Down Under” and occasionally petting the plush, rust-red fur of the tiny puppy on the seat next to me. He looks like a little bear cub, and his squeaks and grunts have an ursine quality to them. 

Through the windshield, the sky was an ecstatic blue, with an unfettered July sun so bright the edges of the clouds gleamed as if imbued with magical power by a celestial deity. 

I had picked up a few oil cans of beer for later on, and I was on my way to grab vegetables at a nearby farm (I always prioritize my grocery shopping – first things first). The puppy, only nine-weeks-old and still made up primarily of potential, with the other 10 percent being razor teeth, licked the frosty orbs of condensation that appeared as if by magic on the blue metal exterior of the hefty can. As we drove, he lay on his side, pawing at one of the cans, leaning up against my daughter’s car seat, and gazed up at the sky. He seemed to be seeing it as if for the first time - through eyes that only a couple weeks earlier could not yet plunge beyond the murk of his immediate surroundings. 

What a magnificent day to be alive, I thought, and not at work for a few moments, safe and sound and soon to be heading home to a wife and daughter who tolerate me, and whom I love very much. The truck, my new vehicle, is nearly old enough to vote and drink and go to war, and it rumbled and chortled as we made our way through the sun-drenched countryside. 

I pulled up and tumbled euphorically out of the seat, shutting the maroon door and telling the puppy, “Teddy Bear,” who does not speak English – or any language - that I would be right back. I slid a blue bandana over my face, felt the heat of my breath mingling with the soft cotton and my wiry black beard, and headed inside to get my veggies, which were created, as if by alchemy, by this same sun that had so buttressed my good cheer. 

The solar rays slid down over my face and shoulders, like the warm, comforting hands of a benevolent God too large to fully see or even comprehend. In ancient Egypt, he was Ra, and later, in the New Kingdom, Amun-Ra. 

With my vegetables in hand, I walked back out, smiling beneath my bandana at a woman who was entering. 

“How’s it going?” she said, obligatorily.

Looking up at the pristine sky, so vast and powerful compared to all of life’s daily squabbles and complaints, I replied: “It’s a beautiful day.” 

“Hmmph,” she scoffed. “If you say so.”

I was so legitimately surprised, I stopped in my tracks. “Do you not like the sunshine?” I asked.

“The sun is fine,” she said glumly. “But not the heat.”

But, I thought, the sun is why we are here. The sun is why these vegetables are here. It is the thing to which we owe so much gratitude. With sun comes heat. With life comes death. With love comes loss. We know this.

A few weeks ago I wrote a whole column about the fact that we should, perhaps, not complain about the rain. About the fact that we need it, that it sustains us, our crops, our moods and our creative spirits. But implicit in that column was the simple fact that sunshine is the cosmos’ greatest gift, to flowers, to tomatoes, to frogs, to sea creatures, to yaks and lemurs and human beings and all our other kin. How can you like the sun and not the heat? That’s akin to liking bullfights but finding gore off-putting. Like enjoying boxing but never punching. Like being a fan of classical music but not of violins. 

I piled back into the truck, still amazed by the thing I had heard. But what can be done for someone who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of the sun, that celestial body that gives life to 8.7 million species on earth, which keeps the trees alive, which kisses the torrents atop the Wisconsin River and scorches Australia’s Red Center, and touches everything in between. 

As I settled in, the puppy writhed in pleasure, releasing his grip on the beer can, wagging his nub tail and looking up at me. 

“Let’s go,” I said out loud, and he looked to the sky again. In that moment, I really did feel like some happy vagabond traveler, like Don Quixote, meeting strange and often tragic characters, but knowing their scenes are only interludes on an adventure, as I set out, again and again – to the store, to the DMV, wherever – always under the sky, always in the sun, or in the rain, the real adventure existing in those many treks between my destinations. 

I started the song over and turned it up, then continued on my way.

 

Traveling in a

 fried-out Kombi

On a hippie trail, 

head full of zombie

I met a strange lady, 

she made me nervous

She took me in 

and gave me breakfast

And she said…

 

And I wondered at the things the travelers we meet say and do. For they are traveling, too. The strange characters we meet each day, their faces obscured by masks like some mythical bandits blocking the road in Sherwood Forest. It’s easy to let them get to you, with their gripes and grievances, but only if you forget that you are with them for but a moment, before you turn up the music and clatter on down the road, the sun glinting off of you and everything else.

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