The summers of my childhood were full of reading. I stocked up on library books and never went anywhere without a book in my hand (or at least in my backpack.) I would read in the car, in my room, in a tree; anywhere I went, in little bursts and long swaths of time. As an adult, I find myself missing the freedom to read the days away. Too many responsibilities, too many schedules to keep track of, and there’s always something I should be doing. 

I don’t know if I’ll ever reclaim that life of leisure, but last Sunday afternoon I decided to try to recreate the feeling, at least for a while. I took my book, my hat, and my cool drink out into the backyard to sit in the shade and read. My backyard is not big or fancy, but there’s a tree back there that is currently covered in little purple flowers (possibly a crape myrtle), some cherry tomatoes in pots, some sunflowers that are stretching high, getting closer to blooming every day, and a volunteer pumpkin patch that we’re encouraging. A quiet little getaway from the shouldas, wouldas, and couldas, as my wise Texan aunt used to say. 

It was a warm day on Sunday, and I was grateful for the shade and the intermittent breeze, having soaked up a little too much sun the day before. As I read, my mind was halfway engaged with the thoroughly escapist urban fantasy/mystery novel I was reading and halfway reveling in the feeling of spending a summer afternoon in exactly the way I pleased. At some point, I stopped reading and started noticing everything going on in the small scruffy patch of Eden around me. There were big, black bumble bees buzzing in the probable crape myrtle. There were little orange skipper butterflies darting about, medium-sized white cabbage butterflies taking their time, and even one monarch butterfly passing through. A hummingbird buzzed in, chirped its quick, sharp note, and buzzed away again. Everything was warm and alive, and so was I. I read some more, feeling content with my lot in life and deeply connected to the reading kid I used to be.  

If you visit the library in the Summertime, you can’t miss noticing the Summer Reading Program. We put a lot of effort into encouraging reading over the summer, largely because children are out of school and reading helps them be ready to succeed when school starts again, but all ages can participate. Last year, I wrote a blog about why Summer Reading is not just for kids, and you can read it if you’d like to learn lots of good reasons adults could choose to use this season as a time to focus on reading, too. This week, my favorite reason is that setting aside time for reading can be a reminder to slow down, to revel in summertime, and to recapture the pleasures of my childhood, when I could spend my afternoon any way I liked, and what I liked best was to read. 

Those reasons may be enough for you, but if you’d like to sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Program, there is still time. Stop by your library for a reading log or use the Beanstack App if you like tracking things on your phone. You have until the end of August to read five books or collect five badges in Beanstack, and you can count reading you’ve already done this summer. When you finish, you can claim a free book to keep and be entered into our grand prize drawings.

So here’s to slow, sleepy afternoons, spent exactly the ways that make us happiest. Here’s to the bees and butterflies and the blossoming trees, to warm air and to ice melting in a cool drink, and to the books that are our companions on those long, leisurely afternoons. Here’s to the contentment brought on when we combine all those pieces of summertime into a perfect moment. I’m going to remember that feeling and see if I can’t find it again a few more times before summer is through. I hope you do, too.