By Laura Stassi
Sept. 21, 2016
Summer used to be my least favorite time of year. Something about hot and humid weather mingling with seemingly unstructured time—whether it was mine or anyone else’s—left me feeling simultaneously lethargic and restless. But two recent accomplishments have caused me to re-evaluate summer’s status as my least favorite season.
First, I took up stand-up paddle boarding. I signed up for a lesson in June through Surf Reston after reading that the fast-growing sport known as SUP is a terrific way to strengthen core muscles and improve balance and stability. (Anyone who questions why this is important has clearly never been around a struggling elderly person.)
Placid Lake Anne, the oldest and smallest of Reston’s four man-made lakes, may not have offered a rigorous physical workout. But two hours of SUP here—and only one tumble— boosted my confidence enough to try SUP again a few weeks later on Lake Audubon, the largest Reston lake; and then for a third time on the third weekend in July when a family reunion took me to Sawmill Creek Resort on Lake Erie— ocean-esque in comparison to Reston’s tame little lakes and with power boats, kayakers and swimmers keeping me on my figurative, if not literal, toes. I dared not venture too far out from a little sliver of the resort shoreline of this 240-mile-long, 57-mile-wide Great Lake.
Whatever benefits SUP may have had for my core strength, balance and stability were secondary to what SUP did for my head. Any worries about looking goofy evaporated as shimmering water and rhythmic movements put me in a calm, focused and almost meditative state of mind. To quote legendary writer and producer Norman Lear’s vivid description of mindfulness, or “living in the moment,” SUP kept me happily in the hammock between Over and Next.
Which leads me to the second thing I accomplished this summer: I finished reading Wallace J. Nichols’ Blue Mind, a book with a subtitle so long it tells you everything you need to know about what’s between the covers. (The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do)
Nichols’ book basically confirmed what I had first discovered years ago in Emerald Isle, N.C., when slow runs along the beach on hot summer days had led to more than one “a-ha!” moment regarding a writing project or relationship puzzle.
Water activities need not be confined to summer, of course (though time is running out for Surf Reston SUP sessions). Still, when fall arrives on Thursday, I’ll say goodbye to my formerly least-favorite season with no hint of good riddance. For me, the Summer of ’16 provided a different kind of coming-of-age story.