“A Time to Dream,” June 27, 2023

This column is from 2015.

On my way back from the post office, I drove past a school. The parking lot sat empty, the place looked abandoned, like a dry well waiting for rain.

Summer vacation. The thought made me smile. As I waited at a red light, something zipped by my window: A boy, 10 or 12, sailed along the sidewalk on a skateboard _ kick, glide, kick, glide _ with his eyes, mind and fingers locked on a cell phone, texting. When he stopped at the curb just inches shy of traffic, I whispered, “Thank you!”

He glanced up to see the light had changed, then skated across the intersection texting all the way. I watched until he was out of sight. When the car behind me honked, I moved on.

Driving home, I kept thinking about that boy. Things have changed since I was his age. Yes, I do mean in more ways than just the discovery of fire.

Summers in my childhood were spent doing … mostly nothing. We lived miles from town surrounded by cow pastures and apple orchards, with a railroad track 50 yards from our back door.

I remember sitting for hours in an apple tree, daydreaming, watching clouds, tossing apples down to the cows and listening for the rumble of a train. When I heard it in the distance and felt the tree start to tremble, I’d scramble down and hold my breath, waiting.

The cows never knew what to make of it. They’d just stand there looking puzzled. Cows like to do that. If they could scratch their heads, they would.

As the engine roared by, I’d jump up and down, scattering the cows and waving my arms at the engineer. He in turn, bless his good, kind heart, would blow the train whistle, just for me.

Talk about fun. Clouds and cows and trees and trains and apples and kindness and, best of all, time to daydream. What more could a child _ or anyone _ want from summer vacation?

My children grew up on the coast of California’s Monterey Peninsula surrounded by beaches and parks and urban forests, just a few blocks from the Little League baseball field.

“Go play,” I would say, and they would.

I made sure they (and I) had time to daydream. What else is childhood (and motherhood) for? That’s what I want for my grandchildren, and for yours: A daydreaming kind of summer.

The skateboarder on his cell phone made me wonder: What will his summer be like? Will he take time to daydream? 

I surely hope so. We are all, I believe, contemplative creatures by nature, thoughtful and imaginative and curious. We long to examine our lives, to understand how we feel, to imagine possibilities and make great decisions for our futures.

Cows aren’t the only ones who find it hard to understand what’s going on. To do that, we need time to do “nothing;” to connect with ourselves and each other with our eyes and words and touch and hearts and souls.

My grandparents often sat on their porch on summer evenings saying little, enjoying the quiet, waving at passing cars. I loved sitting there with them.

My husband and I have a similar ritual, sitting on the patio, listening to birdsong and marveling at the sunset.

Machines and gadgets are grand inventions. Who would want to give them up? But somehow we need to learn to control how we use them, rather than allowing them to control us and our children and our lives.

It sounds simple, but it’s strangely hard to do. We need to summon the courage to shut them off once in a while _ our cell phones, TVs, computers and other diversions _ and allow ourselves the joy of being fully human, fully aware of life in ourselves and in others and in the world all around us.

Sometimes we need to do nothing. Especially in summer.

Here’s wishing you and yours a summer to dream.


  1. CHope Hall says

    The beautiful summer time for sure. As I got older I learned how to garden, pick & help can winter food. Also learned my flowers grew. I still love doing that, When the work was done I would swing & day dream. Since we are older we have our flower garden on our deck & bird feeders. WE enjoy sitting in our chairs & listening to them calling the babies home. Ours isn’t a big neighborhood. & we rarely see or hear kids playing outdoors. They are missing so much. God bless & enjoy you & yours

  2. Katie Musgrave says

    Yes, I grew up with a slower paced world. It was a long summer…or so it seemed. Porch sitting & swinging was peaceful. Time to talk was a treasure. I still enjoy porch sitting. Enjoying my flower garden is a blessing. Technology is an important part of all our lives now. Happy I can read your columns on line now. My grandkids have mastered it … glad they can help me when I get stuck Love & prayers continue through the ages!

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