by Jim Friedrich
Reeds and sky, Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon
The perfect summer day is a green world against blue sky, timelessness clothed in light. Your kayak glides quietly between islands of reeds, your thoughts float away with the clouds. Here idleness needs no permission, duty holds no sway. Mind empties out. You fall into the arms of Being, receive its noonday blessing. Is there something else you should be doing instead?
Vintage neon sign, Pomeroy, Washington
Do you remember the way back to Playland? Between the business of a 24/7 world and its multitude of worries, can you still find Sabbath rest? Play has no purpose, product or outcome. Its meaning lies in nothing but its own performance. Time out, time off, time away are food for the soul. Swimming is “summer’s sovereign good,” said the Jesuit poet G. M. Hopkins. This applies to all forms of play. Playland is a font of rebirth. Take off the garments of sorrow and affliction and dive on in!
Presiding at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, Moose, Wyoming
When I was a young priest, I took summer services at the Episcopal chapel in Teton National Park. Through a large window behind the altar, worshippers could see the highest peaks.. The first time I led the assembly in the Lord’s Prayer, a bolt of lightning struck “the Grand.” Liturgies were attended mostly by vacationing churchgoers, for whom the familiar rite took on fresh meanings amid the spectacular beauty of the park. They seemed glad to find a place to offer back the joys and revelations of their travels in the form of holy praises. A few seekers and prodigals also wandered in. Some wanted to share their story with me after the service. We’d converse side by side on a fence rail behind the chapel, gazing up at the mountains as if a keen eye might spot the gate of heaven.
Comet Falls, Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington
Benedicite, omnia opera Domini! Give glory, all you works of the Creator. Nature is not a substitute for God, nor is a walk in the mountains a replacement for communal prayer. But worship uninformed by the natural world in all its moods would be substantially impoverished. Scripture is full of Nature images, and there are things about God you can only learn at the foot of a waterfall. It’s not “head” knowledge. It’s a body thing: the endless pouring out of energy from an unseen source, a roar to silence human speech, the soaking baptismal spray. You just open wide and take it all in.
Joe Golowka, Sespe Creek, California
As a firm believer in the spiritual value of outdoor adventures, Joe started teen backpacking camps for the Diocese of Los Angeles in the 1970’s. Those weeks in the wilderness were a paradigm of “summer knowledge”—exiting one’s habitual environment in order to experience the world, the self, and the divine in fresh and revelatory ways. I took this photo of Joe 30 years ago during a camping trip. Ten years later I made the starry montage version for his 75th birthday, with a caption from Thoreau: “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.” Fishing, with its patient attentiveness and expectant receptivity, was always a sacred seasonal ritual for him. Now, at 96, Joe still knows how to bait that prayerful hook.
The Rev. Jim Friedrich is a liturgical creative, filmmaker, retreat leader and writer on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Summer is his favorite season. He blogs as The Religious Imagineer, and his Summer Solstice post, “Sacraments of Summer,” which may be found at https://jimfriedrich.com
All photos copyright Jim Friedrich