In Search of Summer
The discussion involved possible images for the collage on the cover of this issue of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.
“What happens in June?”
“Gay Pride, but that’s the cover of the next issue.
“Still, it’s June.” (Googling….)
“National Doughnut Day.” We laughed and smacked our lips. That was followed in quick succession: “National Leave the Office Early Day.” We thought about it. “National Name Your Poison Day.” We didn’t. “National Upsy Daisy Day.” Oddly appropriate at any time of the year. “National Flip Flop Day.” All summer long. And “National Heimlich Maneuver Day.” Good to know, but don’t get choked up about it.
That was only the beginning. Almost every day of the month is jam-packed with National day of this and National day of that—a disproportionally large number of which are food items: hazelnut cake day, cheese day, egg, applesauce, strawberry rhubarb pie (and strawberry shortcake), chocolate macaroon, peanut butter cookie, and corn on the cob. I could go on and on. The list certainly does.
Our Google dive made us smile, but didn’t add much to our definitive search for the essence of June.
Or did it?
June contains, after all, the first day of summer—and that alone is good enough reason to celebrate. Aren’t we all simply looking for “summer” in our lives? Not just the warm weather, but the reprieve from the stress and worries of life. Summer, beach, friends—the need to relax—the need to put down our burdens, to step out of grief, to laugh, to dance, to find some measure of healing in a world that feels broken to us.
At some point in the mid-winter of the past year, caring for Steve in the last months of his battle with lymphoma became all consuming, and I stopped watching the news. I don’t remember if it was a conscious choice or if I simply ran out of hours in the day. Here and there in waiting rooms or hospitals I would catch enough to generally know what was happening in the world—but I stopped hearing the endless babble of pundits and politicos. A scan of Axios in my email on the way to a treatment or an appointment generally gave me all that I needed to know. Life had become so precious and painful I had no room left for the shootings, the outrages of government, the heartlessness of Twitter—or even the cares and worries of friends on Facebook.
In those dark winter months we talked about the warm weather and perpetually blue skies of Mexico. We had reservations and tickets for February—and then March—though we both knew we would never make it in March. We wanted summer—the essence of summer. The escape. The freedom. The healing.
Rehoboth Beach is a crossroads. I’ve written those words time and time again in these pages. People come here from everywhere, to walk by the ocean, to feel the sand and sun, but most of all to step outside of themselves—to vacation—to “vacate” their familiar surroundings and all that weighs them down. They come to let go of the world, even if for only a weekend at a time.
The nature of a crossroads—of a resort community like Rehoboth Beach—brings people together from widely diverse places and backgrounds. We understood that when we founded CAMP Rehoboth back in 1991. We knew that the draw of the summer season would always provide connections to other cites, resources not always available to small towns, and a continual supply of fresh talent and brainpower.
Steve’s death and the changes that have occurred at CAMP Rehoboth in its wake have caused me to reminisce about the past even more than I might normally do. While looking for photos for the video that Carolyn Watson so kindly and brilliantly put together for Steve’s funeral, I dove into a sea of Rehoboth summer memories—from the days when we weren’t here to work, or fundraise—the days before HIV and AIDS began to take a toll on our beach houses. We thought we were worldly; we were innocent babes. We made friends, we laughed, we played—I started to say “too hard”—but it was just right. We found summer, and summertime brought healing—and eventually this little resort, this crossroads, delivered us to the work we felt we were meant to do.
Summertime has the power to heal, and CAMP Rehoboth has always harnessed the power of summer to inspire healing in the world. Creating more positive environments for everyone has at its heart the power to heal us, our families and our communities. The messages and cards and conversations I have had since Steve passed away have often been about the healing that CAMP Rehoboth brought to this community and the individual people who come here.
My news consumption has picked back up a bit since Steve died, but I don’t even have to pay attention to it to know that the world is in a bad way. We are torn apart by political differences. Homophobia, racism, sexism, and all manner of bigotry is flourishing around us.
More than ever we need healing in our lives. More than ever we need summer in our lives. More than ever we need to put down our fears, let go of our pain, and walk barefooted in the sand.
No matter the time of year, no matter the temperature outside, we are all in search of summer—we are all in search of healing.
I hope we find it this summer.
Oh yeah, one more thing. Not only is June 15 National Flip Flop Day, it’s also National Take Back the Lunch Break Day. Sounds like a plan—flip flops and a really long lunch break! Happy Summertime. ▼
Murray Archibald is an artist, CAMP Rehoboth Co-Founder, and longtime President of the CAMP Rehoboth Board of Directors. He is currently serving as CAMP Rehoboth Interim Executive Director and Editor in Chief of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth. Email Murray. Photo: Aquamarine and Tangerine Party, Christian Street house, Rehoboth Beach early 1980s.