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The Globe and Mail

Savour summer before it’s over: Six ways to seize the days

Alexei Vella for The Globe and Mail

I’ve been busy. That’s my excuse. Chasing that brass ring around and around like a greyhound chases a mechanical rabbit (and probably with about as much chance of catching up). But I awoke the other day with a start and realized: our short Canadian summer is more than half over and I have failed to seize it. I have failed to savour it.

In fact, I’ve barely noticed it. I’m shocked at myself. Shivering through the heinous winter of 2013-14, a season that seemed like it would never relinquish its icy grip on our collective throats, I pined for summer, with everyone else. But what do I do when it finally comes along? Sit inside, blinds drawn, typing furiously on a computer. A sin, sure to infuriate an already angry deity.

So I have decided to straighten up and seize the rest of summer before the leaves turn and flakes fall and meteorologists start speaking of wind chill factors and I’m kicking myself like a self-loathing mule. If, like me, you haven’t done much, summer-wise, follow the bouncing ball and try one or two of my ideas for yourself.

1. Eat outside more often

Or as the French say: “Dejeuner sur l’herbe plus souvent.” How have I not picnicked this summer? Samuel Johnson once said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Likewise you could say: “A man who fails to picnic all summer should have his head examined.” I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to do. You know how they say “it was no picnic” when something’s difficult? That’s because picnics are both fun and easy. A blanket, a basket, some sandwiches, maybe a hard-boiled egg or two. Friends, family, fine wines. Eyes darting around, looking for Mounties, feeling naughty as you pour chardonnay into plastic cups. Boom: Instant memorable meal with your favourite people. And why we haven’t dined en famille une seule fois in the backyard this summer is a head-scratching mystery. But it will happen, je te jure.

2. Float in a body of water

Any body of water. But if you’re ambitious, read a book, sip a drink, and float in body of water, all at the same time. A little tricky when you don’t personally own a cottage. Traditionally I’ve always buttered up friends up with cottages. (Invite them over for a nice boozy meal April-ish, and pray that afterward, full of bouillabaisse and chardonnay, they’d lean back and, glowing with beneficence, say something like: “You know, this summer we should really have you guys –” Me: “Love to! Name a weekend!”). It’s amazing, though, how those cottage invites dry up when you have three kids and a mangy little mutt. But you know what? Go online for an hour, and you can find one. Rented cottages are never perfect, but who cares? It’s time with family, playing board games and such, that matters. That, and my favourite earthly activity (well, second favourite): Lounging in one of those floating armchairs, drink in little holder, reading a book – mankind’s most godlike state. (P.S. You can keep your “roughing it.” I know some people might be wondering why I don’t mention camping in this article. To which I answer: You go camping. I have never, I don’t think, come so close to divorce as the one time our family went camping. I enjoy my wife’s company and prefer to remain married.)

3. Tackle chores in the fresh air

I know, I know, not exactly everyone’s idea of “summer fun.” But I never said “summer fun.” I said “seize the rest of summer,” which in my view includes some productive, non-recreational activities. And it kills two birds with one stone: You get stuff done, kids are detached from their beloved screens, and you spend time bonding and interacting. Or is that three birds? Anyway, paint something, “strip” something, plant something. Me, I started an herb garden with my youngest: chives, oregano, basil, etc. It gives us both a measure of pleasure all out of proportion to the thing itself. I buy him little plastic planters of herbs (Me: “Hey, Adam, I got you a tarragon.” Him: “What’s that?” Me: “Oh, it’s delicious, got kind of a licorice-y flavour, I’d eat just about anything with tarragon on it,” etc.) And he becomes all invested in the making of dinner –because we’re using his herbs! Could I sound any more like a little old lady? Maybe as an antidote I should think about getting a fresh tattoo, maybe an evil sailor with dagger in his teeth, and while donning sunglasses, a leather jacket and boots, I should …

4. Roar into a small town

Better yet, do so on a motorbike, glare threateningly at the locals, pop wheelies and do smokin’ doughnuts in the town square. Me, I don’t have a Harley, but I did recently chuck my rusty old Raleigh 10-speed and bought a bit of a “sweet ride” of a bike complete with Flintstones-like 29-inch tires and disc brakes. Can’t wait to take it on a long ride. You too, dear reader: Choose your favourite form of unenclosed transportation and go on a nice day trip. If you have a convertible, my hat’s off to you (doing cartwheels through the air in your rear-view mirror). Or a motorcycle. (If not, it’s possible to rent these items, too.) Have lunch. Check out what’s on offer, e.g. antiques. Besides, popping wheelies is dangerous and probably unlawful and you should eschew it in favour of safe motoring at all times. And try to interact with the locals as peacefully as possible. You might even get a free jar of locally sourced jam out of it.

5. Have a squirt-gun fight

Only for kids and Pride paraders, you say? Poppycock. Maybe if we were talking about the kind of squirt guns we had when I was a kid. But these days, they’re not “squirt” guns at all. They’re “super soakers” and that’s no misnomer: you can really hose someone down with one of these things. My kids come in from these “squirt gun” fights looking like someone upended a bucket of water over their heads. Drenched. And shivering. And laughing. Kids know how to stay cool and have fun all at once. When did we lose that? Time to reclaim it. I’m lucky, I have three male offspring, my house already has a large cache or plastic arsenal of water-combat ordinance. But anyway if you don’t have them, they’re cheap to buy, and nearly free to operate. Tons of intergenerational fun.

6. Take the indoors outside

Reading a book. Sitting around a fire (get one of those “outdoor fireplaces”– they’re cheap). Listening to radio. For the adventurous and amorous, the lovers out there – ah, wait, scratch that one. I could get in trouble for recommending you do that “sur l’herbe.” And you could get in trouble doing it. But how about watching a movie? I love doing that in the summer, and can’t believe we haven’t had a “backyard movie night” yet. They’re easy. Extension cord. Bowl of popcorn. Rented “popcorn movie.” I watched one of the all-time great “popcorn movie” with my kids the other day: Jaws. What a classic. It holds up. (“This shark, swallow you whole. A little shakin’, a little tenderizin’, down you go.”) They were blown away. I envied them, having the experience of watching it for the first time. We should have watched it outside. That’ll happen soon, too. Je te jure.

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