Summertime Invitations

Summer: It’s a little word, like many, that conveys a great deal.  I have had an affinity for this season for as long as I can remember (which more than likely stems from celebrating a July birthday). Summer has signified a break from school, a trip to the lake, sunflowers in my wedding bouquet, camp songs, garden produce, thunderstorms, cook-outs, sleeping in tents, long days and warm nights.  This season is a sensory experience. What’s not to love?!

It has taken on a new look while the academic calendar does not define our days, and I am being offered a new invitation in this season of my life. Sometimes I crave those stretching, long days that lingered on and on. Sometimes I feel the nostalgic pull of the school year. But recently, I find myself rising with the sun and quietly making my way onto my back stoop, hot coffee in one hand, cool of the morning on my skin.

From my stoop, I am struck by the smell of dill in our garden, the cold dew on the grass, the chipper songs of birds in my ears, the pale light of the morning, the color of the flowers in bloom. And I feel myself breathing deeply in gratitude. This is summer.

Before I sat down to compose this post, I was on a walk on a favorite path. There is a point on this trail that rises over a bridge and then dips low. In the evening, cold air and the scent of fragrant branches collect there and stop me in my tracks. Every time.

The invitation that I am receiving with new ears is not only a response to the fragrance, or the coolness that gives me pause, but an out and out collision with the glory of the Creator--a glimpse of artistry as manifested in the beauty of the flourishing life around me.

Saints and Theologians dating back to the third century have referenced the ‘two books of revelation,’ suggesting that human reason is so perfectly created by God that we are able to learn about God through experiencing creation itself. This was particularly important to communicating revelation and wisdom to communities that historically were highly illiterate, and remains so for a variety of reasons. Certainly the ‘book of nature’ has been read in light of revelation through Scripture, but the two are seen as complementary.

How poetic that our souls are attuned to beauty in such a way, that we can catch a glimpse of God’s glory in a garden patch, the power of a summer storm, in the feel of the sun on our back and water rushing over toes. I love the way Elizabeth Barrett Browning notices the prevalence of God’s invitation and self-revelation:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes - The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

This is not to say that ducking out of church for the summer and heading to the mountains will provide everything necessary for spiritual growth. Nor is it to say that this invitation beckons only in these long days. It is to say that our senses are alive with the palpable beauty of creation and it seems to me that any time God means to communicate by way of reaching out to all of my senses, then the invitation therein is likely one to which I should be attentive.