Summertime and the livin’ is easy

Woodhull Landing BeachSummertime and the livin’ is easy.

It’s true! It’s true! It was true during my childhood and it‘s still true today. The location may be different but my feelings about summer are unchanged.

The release of the update of Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort got me thinking about summer. Growing up in New York, when March winds were doing their lion thing, I was looking at the calendar and counting the days until summer. Summer meant being in our special place on the north shore of Long Island, New York, an oasis for my family and me, mostly for my twin and me.

Here it is fifty years later and I still love summer. My friends and neighbors in Tucson sigh and say, “Enjoy the weather now. Summer’s coming.” Sign. Groan. Maybe even a verbal “ugh.” Or the conversation opener after the snowbirds have flown, “You getting away?”

But I don’t want to get away. Really. When I moved to Tucson six years ago, I knew summers would be hot. I like hot. I had heard that whole “But it’s a dry heat” for months.

East Coast summers are hot–90° to a 100,° and humid. Your hair sticks to the back of your neck. If you have perfectly straight hair as I do, no amount of hairspray can keep a curl. If you have natural curly hair, your tresses will shrink up like little springs. The air feels heavy and you can smell the moisture, a combination of grass, dirt and … air. When you stand up from sitting, clothes stick to you. You do not put wet things outside to dry.

Things to remember in Tucson in the summer. It’s hot–average high 101.° Average low 76.° Do not go barefoot “just to run out to the mailbox.” Do not wear your gold necklace when you go for a walk. That scalding feeling is the sun absorbed, then transferred, by the metal laying so beautifully on your neck. Always, always, always have a bottle of water in the car. My first friend in Tucson gave me the gift of a small bottle of Refresh eye drops. “You’ll see why.” Research the various sun block lotions and buy stock in the company. Funny as it seems in the desert, it’s best to obey road signs that say, “Do not enter when flooded.”

On the plus side. Straight hair needs no spray or gel. You can hang a pair of wet jeans outside to wear in fifteen minutes. Voila- dry! (Although you won’t wear regular jeans from JuneMolino Basin-September). You will never experience seasonal affect disorder because of a week of dark days. The sky is endlessly blue. When the monsoons come, they bring an appetizer of humidity– perhaps 50%–not the 98% in the East. They also bring dramatic thunderstorms followed by astounding desert blooms.

What keeps me happy about summer in Tucson is the feeling I bring with me from my childhood summers in Miller Place. Whether I’m here in Tucson, back East, or we’ve “escaped” to Flagstaff, I still feel a combination of peace and excitement around summer. Because my summer memories are grounded in that sleepy little town called Miller Place.

My contemporary memoir about my summers tells the surface stories of swimming and diving in the waters of the Long Island Sound, and eating apples right from the tree, raspberries straight from the vine, laughing with my twin, toasting marshmallows at Sunday BBQs and chasing fireflies in cool evenings. Easy, carefree, safe and happy.

Miller Place also set the scene to learn about family loyalties, friendship, being honest, jealousy, and love. “Miller Place offered us an idyllic timeout from feeling the scrapes from our rough edges. Miller Place had its pokes and holes, but the serenity and security we felt there allowed us to look at the pokes and holes without falling through. I know it allowed me space to step back and see what was real—as if sitting on the cushion of a soft and comfortable couch.”

Summer in Miller Place was akin to going on a retreat today. Problems, cares, worries are filed away for the duration and, as in the space of openness on retreat or vacation, some surprising ideas emerge, and often decisions are made. The foundation for my personal beliefs was laid in Miller Place.

The reception this past Sunday for the book was a replica of Miller Place. Ice-pops, fruit, music, lazy talk, and sharing stories and stirring up memories of summer for all of us.

These days I am semi-retired. My schedule is entirely my own. My days can be structured, over-structured, or lazy. I’m a type A personality so most days are full of to dos, writing projects, or meetings with colleagues. But still, summer is more deliberately free and relaxed, like Miller Place was. Meet a friend for lunch. Go for a sunrise hike. Watch a movie in the afternoon. Take a walk after supper with my husband. Stop whatever I’m doing when he says, “Come outside with me and look at the moon.” Sigh–in a good way. It’s my Miller Place summer.

What’s summer like for you?


Thinking of Miller Place is available online at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, or get an author-signed copy from the author. Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort (2106 Wheatmark)










  1. Chris

    Sounds hot. What does “escape” to Flagstaff mean? Cooler climate? I think we have something similar in Massachusetts. We “escape” to Maine.

    • Ethel Lee-Miller

      Hi Chris,
      “Escape” means pack the car with snacks, hiking poles, hiking boots, long sleeve shirts, long pants, sunscreen, bug balm, camel backs, phone, map and yes, laptop– and drive. Go away from heat to less heat, to higher elevation, more green and cooler breezes.
      We also plan to escape to Massachusetts this summer. It’s all relative, eh?

  2. Barbara Chapman

    I love the blistering heat of AZ and as a beach-loving California girl, that says something about who I am. My childhood memories of boogie boarding, sun-bathing, and sandy swimsuit bottoms are precious, but when I recall adult memories living in the perma-hell that is Phoenix, I wax poetic. There’s something about swimming at midnight under a blanket of twinkling stars, or lounging on the patio savoring the chill of a cold brew still feeling the warmth of the pavement through the soles of my sandals. Impromptu dinners with friends and their families without a care in the world because it’s summer and the season of “carefree.” While our friends in North Carolina did not understand why we retired in AZ, we know why and that’s all that really matters.

    • Ethel Lee-Miller

      Barbara, I’m with you 100%. I love hiking in the Catalinas during our Tucson paradise months of October and November, savoring relaxing in my “spool” in Jan., and watching the monsoon thunderclouds roll in on a summer afternoon because the desert is freshened and blooms after.

    • Ethel Lee-Miller

      Love your writing. You took me ‘there’ with “the warmth of the pavement through the sole of my sandals.”

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