1. It’s summer. I keep trying to let myself feel the joy those words brought me when I was a kid, to let myself off the hook a bit in terms of my drive to be “productive.” I think I may have to actually do some of the summer things I did as a kid—go canoeing, play in a sprinkler, ride my bike, look for four-leaf clovers. And I may have to “forget” my cell phone when I do these things, because for me, old enough to have grown up when the radius of a phone call was at most 6 feet from the kitchen counter, when I have my cell phone with me I’m never fully present in time and place. My phone keeps me thinking about the future and the past—even more than I usually do—and about people I’m not with, people far away. Sometimes I need to re-enter the childhood fiction that the only things that exist are those I can smell and touch. Every other time and place in the universe is just void, waiting until I notice it before it pops back into existence.
2. Fireflies, iced tea with fresh mint from the herb garden, light lingering into the evening, green green green, frogs in the back yard, corn so high you have to stop at the un-signed country crossroads because it blocks the view, popsicles, drive-in movies, sunburn, sandals, oscillating fans (what a wonderful word, oscillating), smell of cut grass, thunderstorms, lazy gold sunlight, hard-to-breathe oven air when you open the car door, swimming pools, barbecues, corn on the cob, watermelon…
3. Take a deep breath, and when you exhale, let your shoulders drop below their usual I-have-too-much-to-do level. Now, remember that for nearly everyone reading this in the month of its release—including you—it’s not cold outside. Oh, I know: it’s hot. I’m in Tuscaloosa, Alabama right now, and it’s 97 degrees and humid. But again: it’s not cold. I’m reminding you of this because some of these works will take you back to winter so vividly that you may forget. You may shiver, whether from the imagery or the surprise or the wisdom of these writers’ words. But those kinds of shivers, unlike the ones you get from a 7-degree January day in Maine, are good. The shivers you’ll get from these poems and essays are reminders that you’re human, that you’re connected to other humans through the magic of words, that someone else has given you a glimpse into the mystery of the human experience.