The Beauty of a Summer Tale

A little patch of grass of much fame.

For my AP Language and Composition class, I was assigned to read and analyze John Tobias’ 1967 poem, “Reflections On A Gift Of Watermelon Pickle from a Friend Called Felicity”. Longest title ever, I know, but the length isn’t suggestive of the poem’s concise, lyrical language.

It relates the story – to my understanding so far – of a summer “which may never have been at all; But which has become more real Than the one that was—“. It talks about a time “when unicorns were still possible”, of watermelons that provided “a summer of limitless bites, Of hungers quickly felt And quickly forgotten With the next careless gorging.” It tells us how, “in a jar put up by Felicity,’ which I assume to be happiness, ‘The summer which maybe never was Has been captured and preserved And when we unscrew the lid And slice off a piece And let it linger on our tongue; Unicorns become possible again.”

In what may have been one of the sweetest poems I’ve read in a long time, I’ve found a certain quality of summertime that I never really thought about before. Sometimes, in a world run by people in suits catching the train to the next meeting, by parents that work long hours during the week to be able to enjoy some peace and quiet with their children on the weekends, by teachers that assign homework over the weekends and expect you to continue studying as if you haven’t already been doing so during the week … it’s a little hard to find true beauty in something.

And no, I’m not talking about girls – for once. I’m certain there’s all kinds of beauty to be had with them – whether it’s fake or real.

But I’m talking about the beauty of the summertime. Sure, it’s “beautiful” because it’s a well-deserved break from long months of school work, but I think there’s beauty to be found beneath this. When summer 2010 was coming to an end – little over a month ago, as I was doing my AP summer assignments – I stood up and paced around my house for a few minutes, when I stopped and looked outside. It was, truly, “a bright summer’s day” outside, with the birds chirping, the sun full out, children playing in the pool, ducks showering in the lake, wind under the shade … and I looked at one particular spot in the lake. A little cot of grass that seemed like it was missing only a group of best friends reminiscing or “eating crap”, as many rudely call time with friends, to complete the photograph.

I looked at that spot, and at that point – perhaps the worst point in time possible – I had an epiphany about the true meaning of summer. For long, I’ve wondered about what the true meaning, purpose of summer is. Back in ye olden days, it was so the kids could go home to their parents’ farm and harvest the crops, but that certainly isn’t the case now. Is it for kids to find a job or get ahead on their AP classes coming the following year? No – not at all.

Instead, it’s for us to enjoy an inexplicably pleasant feeling that comes from sitting in a place like that little cot of grass. You know all those shots in movies of friends sitting on a wide open field, with arms around each other, singing “Kumbaya”? Well, that’s what summer’s for. It’s kind of like an acting role, in a sense. But not nearly as superficial. When I saw that little patch of grass by the lake, a feeling of nostalgia and regret swept over – nostalgia from all the amazing times I’d spent with my friends during the summer, and regret that I couldn’t have spent more time with them.  I regretted that I couldn’t experience that sweet ethereal feeling once more … mostly because I had to get back to my AP stuff.

Nonetheless, I had an amazing summer! I got to go to UM for a three-week journalism workshop, as you all know; I often went to McDonald’s with my friends, I went to the beach with them once, I filmed Band Camp the three weeks before school started … truly the best summer yet. But perhaps the regret comes from having not sat in that little patch of grass. 

I get even more nostalgic and regretful when I think of summers before this last one. So to Summer 2010, and all those beforehand – you’re all sorely missed. 

Week/end of Morality – Part 2

… or so I thought. I mean, of course I do the regular things like eat my lunch/breakfast and sit and talk with my friends about the latest news or happenings and such – as anyone would – but the girls thing is quite the problem. Now, of course, it’s always a problem when you don’t have a girl, so to speak, but I’m talking about something a little different. Naturally, lunch and breakfast time are the best times to socialize and further your interest (wink) but when you start looking forward to these social hours to look for prospective soul mates, you start going down the ladder (and you don’t want to go down, you want to go up) of Swiss psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg’s “stages of moral development.”

Lawrence Kohlberg. Photograph from LIFE.
Just yesterday – Friday, the first Friday/weekend of my junior year – I was texting said prospective soul mates on my computer, using Google Voice (which I might say is an excellent SMS device when your cell phone doesn’t work). And, as I did, I started to think about my selfishness in doing so. I mean, who am I benefiting when I send flirty text messages to girls, trying to eke out the next “awwww” or “maybe we could meet up and talk about that sometime”? No one but myself, really, at least until said flirting turns into a mutually beneficial situation where both the guy and the girl benefit from talking to each other. Of course, simple flirting and trying to sweep a girl off her feet are sometimes the first steps to a relationship, so you might be thinking that my concluding that it’s selfish is kind of stupid. Well, I agree – it is. But when you become overly concentrated on said initial flirting and sweeping, that’s where the selfishness becomes evident and detrimental to your personality.

The person you’re talking to might end up liking you, might end up never talking to you again. But when you’re sending SMS flirts, the only thing you’re exercising is your social and conversational skills. You’re not making anyone happy, you’re not helping anyone. I realized this after I discussed the night’s flirts with a nonchalant friends of mine whom could, at least during our conversation yesterday, care less about flirting and trying to talk or get with a girl. What did she care about at the time? Well besides the weekend’s imminent homework time, she spent the greater half of our conversation talking from a higher level of moral thinking, labeled in Kohlberg’s stages as the post-conventional  rung on the ladder of thinking. She talked about how she wanted to do something for her friend’s upcoming birthday, how her and one of her friends had hung out that day and studied together and gotten ICEEs at the local 7 Eleven. As I heard her talk about such simple, ultimately beautiful desires and events – as I heard her talk about the beauty of spending time with a good friend, a time that both people involved benefit equally from each others’ company … I realized how absolutely selfish I was being in getting worked up over texting these girls whom probably could themselves care less about what my intentions were.

A bit of strong comic work, I know, but it’s hilariously true!
Now, I don’t mean that in a “giving up” tone. Trust me, I really am not that concerned with whether anything good comes out of these flirtish endeavors (though it’d be nice if it did) – what I am frustrated about is in either preserving or fostering my own selflessness. For as long as I can remember, there’s been numbered occassions where I’ve thought about doing something nice for somebody else – leaving them a card in their locker, making them brownies. All that good stuff that makes people feel happy inside. That’s what I’m feeling blue about. When you get to the level my friend was talking from yesterday – Kohlberg’s post-conventional level of morality – that’s when you achieve true selflessness.

Yeah, maybe we should spoil our countryside a little.
So to aid my bothered conscience, I’ve decided to start doing something for my friends. But I won’t tell you what. 
‘Til next time, friends. Good night, everyone.

Years Pass and How Do I Feel?

 A bit of poetry from me, which I don’t write at all, really. I write the following, not in an act of spite or vengeance, but simply to express my feelings. May my feelings be right, and may they be defended by whomever decides my fate. Oh, and tell me what you think of my poetry skills!
For two years
since I knew you to be friendly, I tried
and thought I succeeded
in breaching your human barrier. 
But at times I felt
like I’d been pushed back to square one. 
I can’t blame you for who you are
But I can’t let this pass either

It’s difficult to decide
in an age of words unspoken and of words that hurt
when to consider your feelings the truth
and when to discard them, for they are not true. 
I tried for a long, long time
to try to equal those whose affection you sought.
But through the passage of time, newfound
understanding has led me to think differently.
It would be a crime to say
that we’ve not spent good times;
times where we connected in a way
that only the best of pals do.

But those times are the exception, 
not the norm. Instead, 
feeling like it didn’t matter, 
dealing with you not caring, 
dealing with your indifference,
dealing with your bipolar soul, it seems, is what I usually find myself doing.
And as of recently, 
dealing with the truth. 
There is sympathy and unconditional positive regard in you;
that is what I seek. 
Why don’t you value my intentions
instead of pleasing someone else?

I give it to you in layman’s terms –

it strikes my last nerve
when I see you acting out of character
to please someone whom you oftentimes considered unworthy. 
I cannot be adamant about hate, 
for my condition forbids me, 
but I can be adamant about that which makes sense. 
And what makes sense to me today
is that you’ve got me on a leash. 
That you relish a challenge, 
that you don’t care for your allies, 
and instead aim to please the enemy. 
These are someone else’s words, 
and they can only do me one of two things –
make me acknowledge the truth of things
or hurt, hurt, hurt our labored friendship. 
I hope, 
for the better of myself, my conscience, 
and you, 
that these words are wise, and correct. 
I’m not religious
but I’m sure that He only rewards 
those who do the right thing. 
I pray and look to God when I hope that this is the right thing.

Good morning, America. 
Good morning, world. 
Good morning, friends and family. 
Hold my hands and lead me to salvation, please.