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Summer Stories
June 14, 2005

There is a quality to their third seasonal biography that sets it apart from its two predecessors, say its creators.

"We had more fun with this one," admits Gary Schmidt, co-editor with Susan Felch of Summer: A Spiritual Biography of the Season (Skylight Paths Publishing, 2005).

The two, both professors of English at Calvin College, have also produced books that explore the spiritual qualities of winter and autumn.

Like those books, Summer is a compilation of essays, poems, prayers and sacred writings that rummages freely among various cultures and religious traditions, from G. K. Chesterton’s ruminations about drawing with chalk to Madeleine L’Engle’s graver meditations at the deathbed of her mother to Japanese poet Tada Chimako’s observations about fish.

"These pieces are not about summer so much as they embody summer," says a recent Publisher’s Weekly starred review of the book.

Summer's prevalent quality, Felch says, is one of playfulness or light holiness.

So the book was fashioned in a more relaxed format than its two forerunners in the series.

Says Schmidt: "When we think about summer, we don’t necessarily think about it progressing in the same way you think about spring progressing, with things growing. We think of summer as more of a static time. Summer has pools of time. So we started thinking about the different kinds of time."

The book’s pools of time include "Play and Leisure," "Tillage and Cultivation," "Family and Community," "Nature and Grace" and "Retreat and Return."

And though the summer season doesn’t host, as Felch puts it, "the holidays that require a lot of effort," the book does celebrate the fourth of July, including not only the entire Declaration of Independence, but also the Frederick Douglass essay, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"

The book also includes, for the first time in one of their seasonal explorations, recipes!

Included in Summer are templates for making a spicy herb dip, dandelion wine and African squash and yams.

Authors familiar from Winter and Autumn reappear, Jamaica Kincaid and Anne Lamott among them. The book is illustrated, as was Winter, by award-winning illustrator Barry Moser.

However, Schmidt and Felch have vowed to feature no author more than twice in the series.

"One of the great things about doing these books is discovering people we wouldn’t normally read," Schmidt says.

Summer also features offerings from the editors' colleagues in the Calvin English department: William Vande Kopple contributed the generational fishing story, "Bright Hope," and James Vanden Bosch offered up the book's prayers.

Schmidt and Felch are already at work on the series finale, Spring: A Spiritual Biography of the Season, which will appear next year.

~written by media relations staff writer Myrna Anderson.