Welcome, summer 2023! Lee County has always provided the best summers for both the young and old. With school being out, summer provides time families can spend with each other that are rich in memories.
Summer welcomes us to be outside in the evening to enjoy the extra light. Spread a quilt or blanket outside on the grass late in the day to enjoy evenings of stargazing. I know when I am walking my little dog, Cookie, in the evening, she and I love to look up at the sky to see the moon, planets and a sea of stars.
“The man in the moon,” the constellation Orion, the Big Dipper and Venus, the bright evening star … all present on many summer evenings. This past Saturday, June 3, we celebrated the anniversary of the first United States space walk done by Ed White in 1965.
Even though I truly dread the heat of summer at times, I pray and ask God to help me have a more positive attitude that I can share with young students. I have written down some sensory enrichment ideas over the years that I would like to share with families. I hope these suggestions bring you joy as we embark on summer.
1. Sights: Taking time just to “watch” the summer can fill your day. This past month, I have loved watching baby birds on the rafters above my patio. I observe the different foods that the parent birds are bringing to their babies. I have also loved observing these baby birds slowly but surely take flight. There are plenty more ways to fill your day with summer enjoyment: observing the glow of fireflies in the evening, watching hummingbirds drink nectar from a flower or feeder or following the flight of butterflies as they dart here and there. In Opelika and Lee County, we have so many beautiful sunsets to enjoy as well.
2. Smell: I am sure we have all caught a whiff of the sweet fragrances of magnolia, honeysuckle or gardenias that signal the arrival of summer. Smelling a summer rain, ocean breeze, freshly mown lawn, barbecue on the grill or even suntan lotion can flood us with many fond memories of summers past.
3. Taste: This past Mother’s Day when I was at the Tulip Festival in Holland, Michigan, a great little treat I savored was fresh-squeezed lemonade. Opelika and Lee County summers also bring us fresh tastes of watermelon, strawberries, peaches, blueberries and other delicious fruits. Several of us remember shucking corn, shelling peas and butterbeans, canning and freezing vegetables and even preparing jams and jellies. Some of us still do these things on occasion. We can also remember making homemade ice cream: folding fruits into a delicious custard, pouring it into a churn with a canister, putting ice chunks and rock salt around the canister, and taking turns with family members and friends to turn the crank as the ice cream hardens. Lee County offers some spectacular summer sights that bring back these memories, such as watching tall cornstalks waving in the hot breeze under an evening sun.
4. Sound: I love walking with my little dog in the evening and hearing frogs croaking in the marsh near my home. Crickets and cicadas also add to the wonderful summer evening symphony in nature. Early in the morning, we are met by birds chirping excitedly. Summer also brings more chances for families to laugh and play together outside, providing opportunities to create joyful memories. Play is a child’s work, and it is truly welcome during the summer months.
5. Touch and feel: I can remember from my childhood in Lee County that we did not have air conditioners, but we had attic, table and floor fans to keep us cool. I can still remember as a child opening up our windows, turning on the fans and watching the curtains float as the cool air was blown into our home. Our clothes would dry quickly on the clothesline and smell so fresh after soaking up the summer sun. In church, we kept cool by fanning ourselves with cardboard fans. Spring-fed pools were a real treat to swim in and cool off. Even though our lips may have turned purple and our teeth chattered, as children we enjoyed our summer swims. Touching a flower with early morning dew or walking barefoot through the cool grass reminds us to appreciate the touch and feel of summer.
Lee County offers so very much in summer sensory enjoyment just around our homes. As families, point out what you enjoy about summer with sight, sound, smell, taste and touch during these summer days.