Dear music friends,
“Can you hear the June bugs tappin’ at the screen?” Thank you for your patience with me as I continue to develop a vision for my album One Breath, which I had hoped to release in May. The work remains in progress and I keep writing new songs, so it’s either getting longer or the next album has already started to arrive! This Saturday June 9 from 7:30-9:30 I share music in Burlington, Wis., and on Saturday, June 23 I return to the Café Carpe to share the evening with my friend and fellow singer-songwriter John Stano. New songs seem likely to want to be shared at one or both of these concerts. Please visit my website (kaiafowler.com/shows) for details. Now for the musings . . .
My good friend Ken Fall recently showed me an essay he wrote, and it got me thinking about Summer. Not summer, the season, but Summer as a bigger concept, as a way of living, as a state of being. For many of us who grew up in America, summer break represents freedom and wide expanses of time for exploration and play. Most adults engage in careers, family life and other commitments that crowd out Summer, and as Ken says in his essay, vacation—no matter its length—cannot come close to creating the Summer experience of our childhoods. Yet, he argues, we can resurrect Summer for ourselves by how we choose to live in each moment and each day, through our thoughts about our lives, and through decisions we make about what we do and how we do it. (At least that is what I took away from reading his essay. I invite you to read the essay titled Manifesto for a Resurrection—posted here—and what it says to your heart.)
What did you love doing over summer break as a child? Flying kites, riding bikes, swimming at the lake? What can you do today—or this summer—that will bring you that feeling again? Our time constraints and physical limitations may alter what, when, and how we create Summer now, but they do not have to rob us of Summer completely. I am thankful that he reminded me of this opportunity to create Summer as we walk along the lakeshore path, pull weeds in our gardens, wait for tomatoes to ripen, or simply sit on the porch and breathe the warm air.
This reminder comes at an especially opportune time for me because I am in the midst of a transition year. After over 20 years of parenting as my primary life activity and main responsibility, I find that phase of my life ending abruptly. My younger son becomes an adult this summer and heads off to college in the fall. As I watch his childhood come to an end, I find myself drifting from the dock of mothering, the tether loosening, lengthening, letting go. Where will the water currents and wind carry me? Though I feel the loss inherent to endings, I hope to grieve this loss smoothly and swiftly. How much better to see this period of my life as a Summer, to be explored and relished with joy!
I hesitate to express any longing for freedom and life exploration because it makes it sound like I view parenting as drudgery, as unwelcome labor, and I do not. I feel no longing to be free of mothering. Just as when I was a child, I didn’t chafe to be free of the school year. I always loved schoolwork. During summer break, I looked forward to fall when school would start again. I relished the sense of purpose and achievement school provided. Likewise, I have always loved the work of mothering my children (even if there were some moments I didn’t much like!). Mothering is good work, creative work, hard work, and I feel grateful I was given the chance to do it. What I mean when I say it’s better to see this time as Summer, is that I choose to approach the changes in my life with play. I know I have other good work to do in this life, and I look forward to approaching it with a sense of abundance.
So, as I feel the sorrow of goodbye, still my heart leaps with all the promise of the open sea and the seaworthy vessel of my life. I continue, now mothering adult children, and still singing and writing songs and sharing them with the world, doing my part, earning a living, loving my family and friends and the strangers I pass on the street. I am thankful to Ken for the reminder that Summer hovers within reach in this moment, a thought, a feeling, a perspective away. Wishing all of you a lovely summer, and many wonderful experiences of Summer now and always!
In sunshine and in summer storms,
I am reminded as I write this that—for children who live in poverty—summer break doesn’t represent freedom and play. Children living in food insecure households face higher risk of hunger in the summer, as they no longer have access to free or reduced priced lunches at school. There are some summer food programs, and local food pantries help. As important as government assistance programs like SNAP (food stamps) and WIC are to families and our economy, they provide an insufficient safety net. So, if you’re interested, FeedingAmerica.org provides some great ideas for getting involved in ending hunger. They don’t have all food pantries listed, though, so I recommend people look to their local county social services office if you or someone you know is in need. Wishing abundance for everyone!