As the summer begins to wind down, I want to encourage us all to take a moment and enjoy it with our bodies.
Yes, this is a column about sexuality, and a part of our sexuality is how we enjoy our bodies and the bodies of others with our senses: sensuality.
So, before the sunshine and warmth hibernate for the fall and winter, consider engaging in some of these delights.
Head to a neighborhood pool or Dash Point State Park to enjoy cool water on a hot, sunny day. Wear your sunscreen, of course, to protect your skin. And consider that sunscreen — do you like how it smells? How it feels on your body?
Notice that first jolt of cool or cold as your warm skin touches the water. Feel the cement or sand or rocks or seaweed on your feet — don’t slip! Sigh as you find shade after being in the sun for a while.
Maybe you’ll add some homemade lemonade to the experience — all sweet and tart at the same time. Or some juicy watermelon or ice cream.
While you’re at it, especially if you’re at the beach, notice the sounds of splashing, laughter. Feel the breeze. Be present.
Notice the colors around you — the green leaves, the blue water, the dark sand, the glints of sunlight.
Maybe the beach isn’t your thing. Maybe you have a picnic in your own backyard. Listen to the trees. Play some fun music. Relax in the shade. Feel the warmth of the weather on your body. Smell that grill smell, whether it’s yours or your neighbor’s.
What do you delight in seeing in the summer? Sunshine? Flowers? Sailboats in the water? Children riding bikes? The Salmon Bake at Steel Lake Park? Soccer games at Celebration Park?
Noticing what our bodies enjoy is an important task. It not only helps us understand ourselves and what we like, but it helps us be aware of what does not feel welcoming. And knowing that can help even very young children build an awareness of when something isn’t safe or doesn’t feel right — and to leave and tell someone about it.
Think about the difference between engaging in a mutually fun splashing game and being knocked down and held underwater when you didn’t want that. Or enjoying the warmth of the sun in contrast to getting a nasty sunburn because you didn’t protect your skin. Or eating that ice cream or slushy so fast that you get brain freeze.
These last days of summer, full of fun, and sensual delights, are also great opportunities to talk about what feels good, what doesn’t, and how to respect different people’s experiences.
So go ahead, enjoy — and know you are teaching and learning about healthy sensuality and sexuality at the same time.
Amy Johnson, MSW, is a trainer and educator in the Pacific Northwest. She is co-author of three books and facilitates classes and workshops in the Puget Sound area. Amy specializes in sexuality education and in promoting safe and healthy sexuality culture in faith communities. All opinions are her own. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.