The Return of Summer


It’s summer! I’m not sure where I stand on our four-season climate in Canada. I have a strong preference for the months from April to late October. I would happily skip November to late March.

I suspect that I’m in the minority in this country. I know that winter has its own beauty. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to get into it. The closest I’ve come is cross country skiing. It doesn’t matter whether I’m in my native Newfoundland, in southern Ontario, in Winnipeg, in Spokane or in Minneapolis – St Paul. Winter is a season I have always dreaded.

I know that I need to enter into it and enjoy it. I can’t! I have a good friend whose winter refrain is, “I hate winter!” I try to avoid stating my sentiments in that way, but they are not that far off.

So I’m rejoicing that summer is here. That is not because I am into summer activities like boating and swimming. I’m content to sit outside for a few minutes and let my pale body be exposed to the sun and a warm breeze. I’m grateful that I can wear shorts and a t-shirt.

I love looking at green grass and colourful flowers and trees that have leaves moving to a gentle, warm breeze. And, now that I have mobility issues, I’m grateful that I am not going to slip and fall on icy patches. I enjoy a summer rainfall. I even enjoy a torrential downpour in warm weather.

Summer thunderstorms and lightning have an incredible beauty. It’s a treat to walk along a lakeshore and wear light clothing, as opposed to a heavy down-filled parka. I’m grateful that I don’t have to remove heavy, snow-filled boots when I come to the front door of a friend’s house. I’m easily impressed by simple things!

I’m composing this during a month-long retreat that I am offering at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario. It’s a great gift to sit on a park bench and watch pilgrims walk around the Shrine grounds.

The first gift is the very fact of being able to sit on a park bench and soak up the sun. It’s true what I hear from Jesuits here – sit here for a while, and the whole world comes to you. There are pilgrims of all ages and sizes and cultures and languages and experiences and faiths.

Is it my imagination, or are people more relaxed and friendlier in summer? They certainly seem freer and more upbeat than they did on the commuter train from Pickering to Toronto last winter. True! They are away from work and they are with family and friends. Furthermore, they are visiting a holy place. But I’m of the opinion that summer creates a more relaxed atmosphere.

This is a land that must celebrate summer once it finally arrives. I’m not sure if this wisdom comes from my father or mother – holidays and vacation in Canada should be declared, based on the weather.

Let’s take a day off if the weather is really good. I recall the experience of my time in Guelph. I had plenty of responsibilities, but I was free enough to do plenty of gardening in the summer. I saved my desk work for rainy days.

It’s finally summer in Canada. How will you spend your summer? Do you have plans? Or, like me, are you happy sitting in the sun now and then? I’m not a sun bather. Maybe I can be compared to a cat lounging in the sunshine that is streaming in through a window. Have a wonderful and safe summer.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

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