Summertime and the livin’ is easy. So the song from Porgy and Bess goes. Even though most of us, like school kids, consider those bookends of Memorial Day and Labor Day to contain summer, the first day actually begins on the Solstice around June 21.
For those on the Oregon coast, summer brings people, lots and lots of people and lots of business. For others, it brings crowds, a hard time finding a place to park and a longer wait at stop signs. Regardless of how one feels about it, it’s hard to pass up the sheer beauty of summer on the Oregon coast. There’s nothing like a sun-splashed summer day when the ocean sparkles beneath a brilliant blue sky and everything in the natural world seems as if it’s been freshly washed. The hard work folks put into their gardens in the spring pays off with brilliant blooms. The wool socks come off and the sandals come out as everyone heads outside to eat.
As a student and then a teacher for many years, my life revolved around the school calendar with summer long-awaited for its endless possibilities. By the 4th of July, it seems summer is half over, and it’s time to cram in whatever one can before “real” life begins again in the fall.
People used to tell me, “As a teacher, it must be nice to have the summer off.” There is nothing “off” about it. The first month, most teachers are in a catatonic state trying to recover from the school year. The second month is vacation time and all those fun activities for the family. The third month is getting the kids new underwear and school supplies and planning bulletin boards and attending in-service teacher training for a bright new school year. The euphoria of that dream lasts until about Thanksgiving and then every teacher and student is counting the days until summer comes again.
For me, a child of the 50’s, growing up in a small town in Michigan, summer meant riding my one-speed bike to Huron River Park with a baloney sandwich wrapped in wax paper squished into the wicker bike basket. Paired with a ten-cent bottle of Coca-Cola from Sinclair’s Gas station, I was in heaven. There was no such thing as pizza, unless you counted Chef Boyardee made from a box. And certainly there was no pizza delivery. The A & W drive-in, at the edge of town was a favorite hangout. Girls on roller skates brought Coney dogs and ice-cold mugs of root beer to the car window.
Summer was a time of hopscotch, Red Rover, Jacks, and Hula- Hoops. It was a time of June bugs flitting around the porch light at night and the sounds of crickets. It was fireflies in a mason jar and an ice cream cone from Joe LaRosa’s on a warm summer night. It was a time of magic, a time to picnic in the back yard, pick raspberries or sleep on the screened-in porch. Always playing outside, we kids drank water from the garden hose, played softball until dark and got excited when the fire hydrant was flushed and we could play in the puddles.
At the beach on the Oregon coast, a friend remarked, “Everyone here becomes a kid again.” She’s right. Children and adults alike play in the ocean, jump the waves, and squeal in delight if one catches them. Most people are continually bent over investigating what they have found on the sand, perhaps a jelly fish or an almost whole sand dollar. Others throw sticks for their dogs or play ball or create a sandcastle with a child or grandchild. Smells of hot dogs and burgers on the grill mix with the fresh salt air of the mighty Pacific. People arrive at the beach laden with coolers, lawn chairs, kites, frisbees and blankets.
On the Nehalem River, kayakers paddle quietly at dusk as the cormorants come in to roost. Fishermen drift along the river hoping for one last catch.
And there’s always that gorgeous hike up Neahkahnie Mountain, often translated as “the place of the god,” with its spectacular view of Manzanita and the coast. One can top off their hike on a Friday evening with a trip to the Farmer’s Market for a fresh bouquet of flowers and peaches, maybe some smoked salmon.
It’s hard to not find something appealing to one’s sense of summertime. Or maybe all you want to do is lie in the hammock, read a good book, and let the garden grow. It’s all here. The fish are jumpin’. It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy.
For more than 20 years, Gail Frank lived in Nehalem, wrote a column for the North Coast Citizen on the joys of life in a small town and taught writing workshops. She now lives in Arizona, but spends summers on the Oregon Coast where she says her heart resides.