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Summer People

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I am a huge fan of Wintering by Katherine May, maybe most of all because it addresses how you may need to winter at times when it’s not actually winter. In the same way, maybe you will be summering in summer, but maybe not.

Ideally, in summer I’m outside eating a salad and reading a book, in fall I’m buying notebooks and organizing my projects for the nine months ahead, in winter I’m wrapped in a blanket after braving the cold, and in spring I’m standing cautiously on the front walk while inhaling the scent of dirt that is no longer under snow.

I have summered in a way that is an outdoor version of autumning/wintering, where I make plans and charts and graphs. I have summered where I charted what part of the house each kid would clean each week, who would learn to cook dinner on which days, and when we would bicycle to the library. I have summered where I signed my children up for every possible day camp, which meant I spent most of my day driving. For one summer, we picked a different activity out of a jar each day. That was fun, but was still forcing a sort of cold-weather productivity on our summers.

Cosmo loves being summer people.

I think there is a way to experience summer without having to white knuckle your way through, teeth gritted.

A longstanding parental dictum here is that we tell our kids to “make/build/create” on a day off. They are free to interpret that as they want to. If they spend the day creating an elaborate video for TikTok, well, all right. If they build a birdhouse out of cardboard that collapses at the end of the day, sure. But make something.

Summer is a great time to pick one huge thing you want to make/build/create. Make one thousand dollars. Run farther than you could at the beginning of the summer. Learn to play a particular song. Learn to drive. Ride a bike with no hands. Write a story. Paint a painting.

There is this tendency as a parent and as a person in 2023 to want to control productivity. I want to tell my kids what their goals should be, or, upon hearing their goals, create a calendar showing them how to reach that goal in six weeks.1 I have in the past decreed that I will draft a book over the summer, with my daily word count plugged into Pacemaker so I can hit all my marks.2

But if I approach summer both as “what do I want to make/build/create” and with the idea that I’m going to create with grace and ease, well then, we can make something and have a good time doing it.

We are not people who go on big trips or who “summer” anywhere, although I’ll admit the great privilege I have (and which I talk about in the video) that I live somewhere that is a summertime destination. I do sometimes cringe a bit as my kids are heading back to school, since they don’t have a “we trekked through the Alps” summer story.3 I will also admit that all of this is possible by the fact that, as a writer who works at home, my schedule is flexible. I can go to the farmer’s market on Wednesday mornings. I can vacuum on Thursday at 1 pm.

I’m sure this will change, but here are some of the things I’m making/building/creating this summer:

  • Finish a draft of a middle grade. Revise a different middle grade.

  • Perfect a multigrain sourdough boule.

  • Learn more about sewing clothes intuitively.4

  • I got a paddle board last fall. I’m looking forward to getting better at that.

Plus! All of our regularly-scheduled summer people activities. Smitten Kitchen recently had a post about good picnic food5 Her tomato, olive, and couscous salad is one that I’ve made ahead to have in the fridge, as is this pasta salad with roasted carrots. And the NY Times had a newsletter about make-ahead salads that all look good.6 I made this roasted zucchini one and it was great. This chive potato salad looks yummy too. Now is a great time to re-link to my favorite granola recipe, a summer people favorite with yogurt and fresh blueberries.

How do you approach summer (or any of the seasons, for that matter)? Maybe you live somewhere without much seasonal change. Or maybe your summer is full of rituals and long-standing family events — I definitely want to hear about that. I almost said: “are you all about chore charts, or about lying on your back in the grass and looking at clouds?” but that would make it pretty clear which team I am on, and if your summer runs via chore charts, that’s actually awesome.

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Like anything, anything, all of this stuff, it’s about doing what works for you and not doing something just because you think you should or everyone else is doing it and for the love of pete not just for the Instagram photo. Do it for you. Take it slow. Be with your people, if your people are there. Make a pie. Cut up strawberries and eat them on the lawn. Smell flowers. Watch water. Lie on the grass and look at clouds.



Yes, I did this. It didn’t go over well.


I wrote the book, and it sucked.


I’d like to do a big summer trip. We just haven’t, yet. I don’t know if I know how?


I’m taking Christi Johnson’s Soft Work class for this, and so far it’s great. Next session is in September, maybe it’ll be part of your back-to-school/autumning routine.


I talk about picnics like nine times in the video, but just as often we’re eating picnic food inside, or sitting on the back steps. I like a picnic mostly for the food. Also all of these salads are ones that I have made ahead to bring with us to vacation rentals, so why not make them ahead and have them in our own fridge?


All NY Times links are unlocked links.

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Do the Work
Pep talks about writing and creativity, mostly while I'm walking the dog.
Julie Falatko