We have hit that time of summer when things slow down. The flowers are all planted, the grass grows a little slower and the days are long. There is no homework or projects looming over us. The temperature and humidity are reaching levels where going outside in the afternoon seems unpleasant.
It’s time to spread out a blanket or hang up a hammock under the shade of a big tree. The great, green canopy creates a cool oasis, dropping the temperature by at least 10 degrees. If you are lucky, a gentle breeze rustles the leaves over you.
Looking back, I have had plenty of favorite shady spots. I used to spend a week every summer at my grandparent’s house on the St. Joseph River outside Fort Wayne. There were plenty of large trees to choose from and my chair was a large inner tube. We would use them to float in the river but they also made great recliners in the shade for reading.
There was an old tree on the corner of our farm where I loved to go in the summertime. It may have been an oak, maple or sycamore tree, I never noticed. What mattered to me was the fact it was out of eyesight of the house. Stretched out in its branches I felt like I was in another world, and that world could change daily with my imagination.
When my kids were little, we would spread out an old comforter and several pillows under a tree. We would bring out an armload books to read and crayons to draw with. Often ants, caterpillars, and ladybugs would join us. After a while the birds and squirrels would start to go about their business of finding food while we lay on our backs and watched.
Now the kids all have their own hammocks which they carry in a backpack. Their mobile siesta set-up allows them to relax in the shade wherever they can find two trees. Listening to music, reading or napping, they still seek the shade of a tree to retreat from daily stress.
While there are more comfortable places to rest on the porch or deck, I would still rather be under a tree. I notice quite a bit more about the nature around me now than when I was younger. I see that the oak leaves are a darker green than the maple leaves. I look at the patterns in the tree’s bark and how the moss grows at the base. I listen to the squirrels chatting above me. I watch the dragonfly land on my knee and the ants march along.
I watch the flickering shadows cast by the light filtering through the leaves I think about a John Muir quote: “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Sometimes you don’t have to walk farther than the shade of a big tree to find everything you need.