It used to be the forest. I'd grab my dog, my trusty rifle, and enough water so I wouldn't pass out due to the Texas Sun. Off we'd go into the wild green yonder, never to be heard from again... or for around three to four hours and then we'd come back home. This started around ten or so years ago. Every day, we'd say goodbye to the house and go explore the nearby woods that now happen to be a housing development. You know, that land these million dollar houses now sit on was mainly swampland. True story. Expect a lot of foundation problems in a few years time.
Brandy - that was her name - and I recovered some things from the forest that are worth mentioning. One day, we came upon an old still used for making moonshine. My family comes from a long line of moonshiners so this discovery was of little interest or shock, but what we found while poking through the corroded and rusted-away metal was of great interest to me and also my future employers: it was an old laudanum bottle from around the turn of the 20th century. Needless to say, I thanked the spirits of the forest for the find, put the heavily-made glass bottle with rusted cap in my pack, and my companion and I continued on our merry way.
Another time, we were going through the first of many trails we had hewed from the woods and came upon a deer - a doe, to be exact. This was not unusual in and of itself as we saw much wildlife in our travels (especially bunnies - remind me to tell you a story one day involving one of those feisty critters), but this deer allowed us to get within spitting distance before she made her presence known. For whatever reason, the graceful beast showed herself and we both stopped in our tracks, mesmerized by the sight. Truth be told, I though about petting her but didn't want to chance getting a face-full of hooves. It may have been the heat or my memory playing tricks on me but it was if she nodded at us, acknowledging our work in her forest. When she moved away from a particularly dense stand of trees, a dead tree that had no business being there fell to the ground beside her. As some of you know, deer are particularly skittish creatures and they jump if a twig breaks around them or a shadow looks at them funny. She just kept up her leisurely pace, walking as if to brush beside us both.
This whole time, my dog just stood there wagging her tail that was actually just a little nub. I remember thinking that her behaviour was odd because she normally ran from all the denizens of the forest... even bunnies. Now, you must understand something about the tree that fell when the doe moved: it was about 6'5", almost straight, and as big around as a martial artist's quarterstaff. If you're picturing a skinny branch, you aren't far off. As she's walking past, I get the idea that the "stick" that fell was somehow special. When the deer was out of kicking distance, I retrieved and appraised what I thought would make a good walking stick. I asked the animal if I could take it home with me and she stopped walking, looked back at me, and then nodded again. Maybe she was biting a tick or something but it looked like a nod to me.
So, to end the story, I cleaned the bark from the stick and Brandy and I returned home. Not knowing it then, that would be the first episode on my road to ever-increasingly strange things happening to me. I still have the stick - in fact, I'm looking at it. Now that I rely on a cane for walking, the thought has occurred to me to utilize it in some way for mobility. I think it will stay as my shaman stick, though.
Anyway, that's what is iconically Summer to me - getting out in nature and letting the spirits guide you where they may.