I’m not a big fan of busy summers.
Driving in a hot, stuffy car, to arrive at an even hotter beach, just to jump in dark water filled with seaweed and/or biting fish has never really appealed to me.
Of course, it was all a necessity growing up in hot, rural Okanagan — in a place where you could bake cookies without turning on the oven, and air-conditioning was something you found at the grocery store meat section, ironically an hour’s drive away.
On the hottest of days, my friends and I would hop on dirtbikes and zoom down the hard-packed Kettle Valley railway beds to the well-known swimming holes — my favourite one appropriately known as Big Rock. I enjoyed the warm wind whipping at my legs and arms, and could even handle the ‘whap’ of grasshoppers and other insects we’d collide with, because it meant we were getting to the cool and clear Kettle River, where would wade for hours in the shade of the rock and hang out until someone had farm irrigation to move or siblings to babysit.
It was an enviable way to pass time as a young teen.
Now? To put it plainly, summer can be torture. Going out for a summer’s day includes remembering a list of things as long as my forearm, including but not limited to sunscreen, a hat which I always forget to wear, enough water so everyone in the car can survive a traffic jam, snacks because ‘I’m not paying for beachside $7 hot dogs,’ a laundry load of towels, extra clothes, and naturally, a book I hope to read but know I won’t be able to.
And that’s now that my kids are grown and can manage their own belongings. Allegedly.
However, as this summer gets into gear, I’m actually a little bit excited about all of it. As many readers know, last summer I was having daily treatment for cancer, and my outings from late June to the end of August were limited to nausea-filled car rides to the cancer clinic. I watched summer pass me by from behind my windshield, from inside Abbotsford Regional, and in photos of other people having fun on social media.
And that’s fine. It was something that needed to happen to get me into this summer.
It’s why this summer I’m going to try not to whinge about mosquitos, rain outs, heat waves, expensive hot dogs, and books sitting forgotten in the backside of the car. Instead I am going to try to squeeze the moments out of every day possible, even if that means being uncomfortable in the heat, or drowning myself in DEET.
Where last year I was terrified to scrape a toe and succumb to infection, this year I will bury my toes in the wet sand along the water’s edge.
Where last year I was too tired to drive to lakes and rivers, this year I’ll seek them out and jump right in.
But now that I’m older and wiser, I’ll be doing it all a little safer than ever. And I hope you do, too.
As we head into the summertime this seems like an opportune time to remind everyone that safety can make the day a lot more fun. Or, as I always told my kids: “It’s too nice of a day to end up in the ER!”
So, remember that sunscreen, and re-apply it often. Wear a hat, and rock those sunglasses. Invest in SPF clothing and bathing suits if it’s in your budget.
Never hike alone, and please — never drink and swim.
Remember that you cannot do the breaststroke across the Harrison Lagoon, and you really shouldn’t swim in rivers and lakes with strong undertows. It’s further than it looks and you could easily drown, and we’d all like you to be here tomorrow.
Check over your PFD supply for rips and tears, and make sure they fit before you sit in the boat.
And don’t forget to pack enough money for the concession. If you made it that far, you deserve a treat.