When my kids were small, they had a Little Golden Book called My Book of the Seasons. This book had an appealing way of using alliteration and repetition to bring to life the change of seasons. For each season, the book described traditional, iconic imagery, such as pumpkins and snowflakes, and then asked, “Can you see it, can you hear it, can you smell it?” It was wonderful to read out loud.
I think of the book fairly frequently, especially now when I am enjoying the transition from late spring to early summer. At the beach for Memorial Day weekend, I have had my first local peaches and strawberries of the year. I’ve been basking in the warm sun on the sand. I’ve been taking in the aromas of the plants, as well as the smells of backyard barbeques. I’ve been listening to the birds calling to each other and the children splashing in the waves. Yes, I can feel it, I can smell it and I can taste it. Summer is here!
There’s something incredibly elemental about using the senses to experience the change of seasons. And while a lot of change can be unsettling to people, there is something comforting in the cycle of the seasons, and in knowing that these simple pleasures of summer (or any other season) will be available year after year.
This is also the easiest time of year to simplify and improve how we eat. John Schlimm, the author of a couple of vegan cookbooks, described his style of cooking recently on a radio program. One of his criteria is that all the ingredients he uses have to be available in any neighborhood supermarket, even in the smallest towns. The point is, we don’t need exotic ingredients to make a wonderful-tasting, healthy meal. And with summer here, the farmers’ markets are open, the fruits are ripening, the tomatoes are full of flavor, and there is an abundance of choices. Mmmm…I can see it, I can smell it, I can taste it….
Summer offers itself to us as a lesson in simplicity. It’s not just that the food is fresher and more basic. Our pace slows as we take school breaks and work vacations. We don’t need to wear heavy clothes so our bodies feel lighter and easier. We can be more in touch with nature because it’s so easy to step outside. All that is required of us is to pay attention and make the choice to enjoy the simple pleasures without asking for more.
Jon Kabat-Zinn talks about voluntary simplicity as “seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so that I can have more”. I see the truth of his words today when I feel so incredibly rich because of the simplest things I have – good, fresh food, beautiful surroundings, warm air, blue skies, and loving people.
People often talk about simplifying their lives. But what they don’t realize is that there’s no “doing” involved in it. It’s all right in front of us already. Like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, who realized that she could go home any time she wanted, all we have to do is say, “I can see it, I can hear it, I can feel it…”