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Column: It's Summer. Again. Make Your Resolutions before It's Gone Again.

May 29, 2021 | Mary Schmich

Katie Cox, 23, and Andy Rosendo, 25, cool off with a jump into Lake Michigan near Belmont Harbor in Chicago on May 22, 2021. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

And the summer’s come again.

That’s a line from Jennifer Warnes’ song “Lights of Lousianne,” one of the best summer songs ever written, and it starts pecking at my brain at about this time every year, along with all the existential questions stirred by the thought.

Summer. Again. How do you want to spend it?

Or, in the words of Mary Oliver’s famous poem “The Summer Day”: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Before I carry on about summer, however, I want to acknowledge that there is a subspecies of human that hates summer. Through the years I’ve received many emails from these passionate anti-summer people. Summer’s too hot, they say. Too muggy. Too buggy. To them I say today: I respect your feelings. Take comfort in the thought that winter will be back soon.

Meanwhile, please, let us summer lovers have our brief torrid affair.

We summer lovers are the people who appreciate that up here in the cold climates, summer comes with unique promise and opportunity. Long light. Reliable warmth. Bare skin. Open-toed shoes. Sweat. Summer lovers like sweat, even if we complain about it.

Summer, in short, is our liberation, a liberation that has never felt as acute as it does this year. After the imprisonment of the pandemic, we’re once again released — with limits — to travel, gather, celebrate. In Chicago the beaches are open again. Freedom.

So on this Memorial Day weekend, which is the unofficial opening of summer, it’s time to write down some summer resolutions.

Summer resolutions, like all resolutions, aren’t vows or guarantees. They’re simply intentions and guides. Like New Year’s resolutions, we make them in the hopes that they’ll increase our chances of doing what we want to do.

Given the brevity of the season, the sooner you name your summer resolutions, the likelier you are to keep them. So sometime in the next few days, grab a pen and paper and write down how you’d like to spend this one and only summer of 2021.
Here are some of my resolutions:

— Go watch the sunrise at the lake. At least once.

— Sit outside and watch the sunset. At least sometimes.

— Eat outside whenever possible.

— Whenever possible, walk or bike instead of driving.

— Tend some flowers.

Some people have gardens. I have only a porch and pots, but they suffice. Summer without some flowers to call your own may as well be winter.

— Go to the farmers market as often as possible.

A farmers market is more than a shopping experience. It’s a communion with nature, a chance for city dwellers to remember where their food comes from and who grows it.

— Go kayaking on the Chicago River.

Every year I vow to rent a kayak and paddle through the city on a summer evening. Every year I fail to do it. That’s why I’m stating this here. When you make your resolutions public, you will be held to account.

— Get in water.

A pool, a pond, the lake. Summer’s not summer until you’ve gotten wet.

— Visit parks around the city.

The other day I drove over to Humboldt Park on the Northwest Side for the first time since the pandemic began. It offered a different view of the skyline, a different set of people. It reminded me that visiting parks beyond your usual boundaries is one way of getting to know your place.

— Go to a concert in Millennium Park.

Hearing live music at the Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park downtown is one of the best things to do in any Chicago summer. The concerts are back this year, with precautions. There’s no better way to see this great city we live in than to lie on the grass next to skyscrapers listening to some of the world’s best musicians. There’s music available through the Grant Park Music Festival series and the Millennium Park Summer Music Series. It’s all free.

I’ve heard it said that any summer resolution you haven’t kept by the Fourth of July is one you won’t keep. I disagree. I once planted flowers on Labor Day, knowing they’d be soon be dead. Short pleasure is better than no pleasure at all.

But better to start soon. As that great Jennifer Warnes song about summer says, “Our lives go by like sparks are flying.”