The Antechamber to Heaven

“They come! The merry months of beauty, song, and flowers. They come! The gladsome months.” (William Motherwell, “The Merry Summer Months”)

A new summer has begun. We have the gift of another summer, when life is at the apex.

For me, it is in summer when one really lives. It is the season when life is easier. For one whose professional life revolved around the academic calendar, summer still carries a sense of escape.

From childhood on, summer and I have been best friends—long have I loved it. Most of the good memories of my childhood are memories of summer. I look back happily upon summer which gave me sea and sand, picnics, sarsaparilla and cream soda, baseball time and fishing time, ice cream trucks jingling through the neighborhood and nothing seemed more important than the best choice of ice cream.

Time was largely unstructured. It was a time when parents were not booking agents. It was expected that kids could and should amuse themselves. We had time to be enterprising, time to make something happen in the long, hot nothingness of days and days.

The summers of childhood seemed endless. There was the feeling that summer would never end, that such days had come forever. What child, while summer is happening, bothers to think that summer will end? The magic of summer may be something best seen by a child.

When I think of summer now, I think in images: the beach, blooming gardens, paperbacks stained by suntan lotion, the whir of a lawnmower, the sound of children’s jump-rope chorus on a summer evening, sweet-smelling rain.

I love the long, soft evenings when it is still light long after supper. The day seems to go on and on. Color quiets down and gradually the air takes on a violet tinge. And there is summer’s mellow midnight.

There are those matchless summer mornings when the air streams with the pulse of life. And as Keats said, “what is more gentle than a wind in summer?” (“Sleep and Poetry”).

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language” (Henry James). There is the tranquil silence of a summer afternoon; the silence is quite startling. Nothing moves, nothing dares to move. Everything is absolutely still. There is not a breath of wind and there are the magnificent cumulus clouds in the summer sky.

Midsummer brings thunderstorms to New England, and they have a grandeur which is awesome.

“The God of glory thunders,
Extol Him Who rides on the clouds.
The Lord thunders over the mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful…
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.”
(Psalm 29)

I hate to see each summer day end; I unwillingly let each of them slip away. But summer is too beautiful to stay, and the dreaded Labor Day always arrives. My memory of Labor Day, even as a child, is one of remembering the loneliness of a summer lost. Even today, Labor Day brings the end of summer and a memory of all lost and lovely things.

A summer day can appear as an emblem of perfect happiness, the antechamber to heaven.

It displays the work of an Almighty Hand.

So, blessings on your summer. May God grant us all blue skies this summer. Grant us the good sense to revel in life. Grant us the wisdom to know that there is a time to play, a time to cease from our labors. Summer leisure is the time to experience the fullness of being.