The Nature of Summer

By Sunday, August 3, 2014 7 0

The nature of summer is that it makes us richer in what matters.

One reason I know this is that I got to dance outdoors last night in the Columbia Gorge. The warm air held my body like a lover.  I was swooning, I was so relaxed. Only in summer can this sensation happen, at least here in the cool, rainy Northwest.

Nothing makes me happier than doing a tribal stomp with my friend Colleen, in a land of tawny-gold hills, to songs like “Hot Blooded” and “Feels Like The First Time”. This was at the Foreigner concert at Maryhill Winery in Goldendale, Washington.

And let me just say right now that Foreigner is one of the top five rock bands of all time. My brother Mick concurs. Feel free to name your own top five rock bands in comments, but don’t expect me to budge on Foreigner’s place in the pantheon.

Another reason Foreigner is great is that they brought the Goldendale high school choir up onto the stage to sing “Waiting For A Girl Like You” with them. I call that giving back. I call that creating community, even for a brief moment in time. I call it urging the younger generation forward. This is the way I try to live, too. Foreigner rocks.

Besides giving us outdoor concerts, the nature of summer is that it spurs hospitality, the opening of our homes to each other. This relates to the way we travel in summer.

The summer of 1980 I was 19 years old, traveling the country with my backpack. I was making my way from the wheat farm in Kansas where I’d worked to later start in at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Exactly 34 years ago today, the LaRue family had me over for Sunday dinner. This was in the small town of Houghton, Michigan, on Lake Superior. The LaRues didn’t know me from Eve. But their son Rick, 22, had given me a ride up from Wisconsin the day before. That was enough for them to invite me for dinner.

The LaRues’ warm hospitality in 1980 made me rich in what matters. I was far from home, and a dinner with a family meant a great deal to me. They even invited me to take a shower, which I did. I have always remembered them with a sense of blessing.

Part of my diamond-cut life mission is to emulate people like the LaRues. That means I share hospitality every chance I can find. Right now my husband and I have Aswan staying with us for two weeks through a leadership program of the World Affairs

Aswan from Kurdistan

Council. Aswan is from Kurdistan, just north of Iraq.

Please stay with me as this blog post takes a turn in direction. Our house guest Aswan learned this morning that his family back home has had to evacuate their village because Muslim militants from Iraq are invading it. He and his family are not Muslim. Here is the New York Times coverage of this.

“If you won’t convert to Islam, they don’t just kill you. They cut you into pieces,” Aswan tells me matter of factly. He speaks without a trace of self-pity.

I look at Aswan, horrified. I am speechless. I feel like I am talking with someone in his 30′s. Aswan is 17 years old.

Aswan knows he is welcome stay with us as long as he likes. But he says he is determined to reunite with his family when his leadership program is over on August 15th. It is completely unclear, though, where he and his family will live. “We have to leave our country,” Aswan states calmly.

The nature of summer for Aswan is nothing like the nature of my summer. But my husband and I could not be more blessed than to be offering hospitality to him.

What do you experience as the nature of summer? What is the most meaningful hospitality you have ever given or received?  On a lighter note, what is your favorite rock band? Be careful not to dis Foreigner.

photo by: Mike Fox
  • Dana Whitson
    August 7, 2014

    1979. Backpacking in southern Washington. We made the mistake of hiking too late into the evening. Too exhausted to erect the tent, we just slept out and, of course, it rained, a lot. Soaked sleeping bags w no sunshine to dry them out, we were able to eventually find our way out of the mountains and into the town of Randle where a kind soul saw us trying to regroup. He offered to let us stay w him and his roommate in their mobile home for a couple days. Sooo very grateful.

    Beatles, Stones, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Red Hot Chili Peppers. (Steely Dan and Sting up there too).
    You haven’t acknowledged that Foreigner shared the bill w Styx whom I would have thought was the headliner. (I’m happy you enjoyed the show but I’ve never liked Foreigner…no diss intended)

    • Alison
      August 8, 2014

      Dana, I love your story of camping disaster and rescue. The world contains many kind souls like the ones who befriended you in Randle, Washington, and me in Houghton, Michigan, and the people who aided Cheryl Strayed as she struggled over the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Hm, I believe you were hiking the PCT yourself that summer of 1980 that I describe in this post, right? What an adventure you had, full of risk, and as you once pointed out to me, there were times when things could have gone the other way, i.e. ended in death.

      But the nature of summer involves putting ourselves out there in risky, vulnerable ways, which is exactly what then lets others reach out to us with kindness and hospitality. It often takes the one to create the other, and to craft the kind of diamond-cut life that I’m chasing. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Alison
      August 8, 2014

      Dana, concerning your remarks on rock ‘n’ roll, it’s true, though perplexing, that Styx was the headliner at the Foreigner concert. I was able to enjoy their set, but I didn’t find them worth mentioning in my post. I AM in accord with your favorite rockers, especially Neil Young and Jackson Browne.

      However. It defies all reason that a person who loves Supertramp’s album Crimes of the Century (which I know you do) cannot appreciate Foreigner. I will have to meditate on this mystery for the rest of today.

  • Mick Wiley
    August 9, 2014

    Hi Al ,
    Concerning rock bands…. Couldn’t decide on a list smaller than 15! Realize there are some major historical bands like Beatles, Stones, & Led Zeppelin missing. This is my personal list. Order doesn’t really matter - these made the final cut: Van Halen, Def Leppard, AC /DC, Eagles, Journey, Foreigner, Bob Segar, Tom Petty, Pat Benetar, Bon Jovi, Cars, Police, Cheap Trick. Aerosmith, & Queen .

    • Alison
      August 10, 2014

      Mick, I like your list. It’s clear that you and I both came of age in the 80′s.

      On your list, I probably resonate the least with Def Leppard, Cheap Trick and Cars (you know how I prefer walking, biking and transit, ha ha) and the most with Tom Petty, Bob Seger and Foreigner. Petty and Seger have lots of great, gritty lyrics.

      I’m surprised that Guns ‘n’ Roses is not on your list. I have many ecstatic memories of dancing with you to “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.

      • Mick Wiley
        August 10, 2014

        Al, thanks for response. I always thought Cheap Trick was underrated . Surrender , the Flame, and Dream Police come to mind. Def Lep was hard and primal- pour some sugar on me, under fire, bringing on the heartbreak, rock of ages- but loved them. I definitely thought of G&R due to Sweet child, welcome/jungle, paradise city…. November rain. On the other hand they had some songs that were just noise and crap! Your Segar … Petty comments were no surprise. I mean that in a positive way. There were so many other worthy artists who came to mind too :billy Joel, John mellencamp, … Jackson Browne. Thanks for taking me back to some great music and times!

        • Dana Whitson
          August 10, 2014

          Oh my gosh, how on earth did I leave off Led Zeppelin?

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