Planning a Summer in Hindsight
For the most of this summer, I’m staying in Kuwait. I will be here for June, July, and August, save for a weekend the end of this month. I feel a little excited about this, like it’s a middle school summer that retains its memory sensorially, by the heat lingering on my forearms or wherever I get a sunburn, and the taste of a milky iced tea after a shower and just before a mid-morning nap. This year is the first in a long while that I’m in Kuwait for three hot consecutive months, save for pandemic summers whose structure is forgivably inexplainable. For this, I’m making summer plans.
Make summer plans. Open your notes app or take a pad of sticky notes. On any surface, write the words you want to bring into your world for this summer. Action words like ‘Play’ work just as well as abstract nouns like ’Theory.’ Define your summer with ideas in phrases, sentences, or even photos. Then go live it.
While I was living in North California, I listened to Best Coast enough times while driving to the public swimming pool in Walnut Creek that I can remember flying in my person-sized car with the Berkeley hills growing into the view of my windshield like a pop-up book in super-life-size slow motion. The highways, for all I knew, were taking me to the place where forever existed. I followed a map. I didn’t have it all memorized, so I was still discovering. The novelty of my summer was soundtracked by fuzzy vocals, like remembering being alive again.
Start a playlist and add songs that you want to remember your summer by. It helps to sandwich a song that already makes you think of a distinctive summer in between two summer-neutral songs. That way, you’re calling out an older memory’s crutch and repurposing it.
Long Walks in the Heat After Air Conditioners
Our air conditioner is set to a cold 19 celsius. I am wearing shorts, and I’m cold, but I’m not really adjusting the inside temperature to feel comfortable. Instead, I’m staying impossibly cold, laying on the couch and placing the bottom of my left foot on my right toes, warming them up a little. This way, I don’t hate that it’s 40 celsius outside. This way, when I go for a long walk after the sun goes down, it feels like thawing, and the summer heat isn’t so brutal.
Find new neighborhoods to walk in. Walks are always stimulating, but the repetition of route is something to save for meditation, not novelty. The latter gives form to experience.
More Assembly, Less Creation
The frozen yogurt shop I liked going to closed down slowly. First, the sign that lit up their old logo wasn’t on as often. I kept going. One day, I went there to find the shop closed. I hadn't found any information online. I went there a second time, and it was still closed. The ending of my memory to this place was anticlimactic, almost somber. It was a shame. I lived about 5 minutes and 7 roundabouts away from that shop, and I had grown affectionate towards it. But now, months later, I've moved to a new home, and I haven’t ventured out yet to find a new frozen yogurt shop to fixate on. I anticipate larger tubs of frozen yogurt with hot granola made on a pan in our kitchen this summer.
Food that you can assemble is ideal for the summer. While the rest of the world adopts a no-oven policy due to heat, it makes sense to adopt a more extreme version of that. In the middle of a summer in the hottest place on earth, cooking—or the creation of anything from scratch—demands too much energy to be enjoyable. I imagine fruit and herb bowls drizzled with honey, a stack of cheeses in store-bought sourdough, and nachos with black beans, tomatoes, and guacamole.
Choose an easy non-recipe to make often. Better yet, have a rotating list of non-recipes. If cooking, cook something laughably and charmingly basic, like mac and cheese.
Reflection, Expression, Activity
I have a stack of mostly-empty notebooks that bore witness to my attempts at journaling. I could never get into it because I was mostly indulging my feelings, not thinking through them. But then a couple of years ago, I wrote down short paragraphs describing my frequent runs outside in more objective terms, describing the same route I was running, noting anything new, or different, or circumstantial, like seeing five chickens run around the neighborhood. I read through them now as journal entries—text that seem to illustrate who I was through, or in relation to, my runs, not divorced from them.
The parameters I set were stupid simple. Write for 10 minutes after every run. I would sit down on my desk, in fresh sweat and my workout clothes still on me, my cap pushed off my head, and open the writing app on my laptop. I wrote the date, the time, the distance I ran, and map out the run by memorializing anything I could think of in chronological order, such as what I saw at the beginning, or the middle, or the end. Sometimes it felt more cyclical than that, but I didn’t resist abandoning writing chronologically, because the framework of the whole activity was clear as day.
I take for granted the place I grew up in as the unchanging, boring place I live in. In truth, I could take a day off and decide to have a coffee somewhere new before planning out a day of activities like swimming, asking for a tour of the aquarium, or an entire day of reading. A good summer activity is not inevitable, but simple to initiate.
Plan an activity. Plan 15 activities. Then spread them out across 3 months.