Safe and sane, all that jazz. Here’s something from another summer, another world:
A book, that—lying on your back, while the wind shakes the leaves in your drowsy ears, and insects fill the air with a sweet tenor, and bees under your window hum and drone, and birds return thanks for the seed and worms eaten—floats you up out of sleep, which yet throws its spray over you, as the sea does on men who lazily float in a summer breezy day on raft or low-edged boat,—a book that now and then drops you, and then takes you up again, that spins a silver thread of thought from your mind fine as gossamer, and then breaks it as the wind does the spider’s web,—this is a summer book. You never know where you left off, and do not care where you begin. It is all beginning, and all middle, and end everywhere….
I love clover-hay reading. Spread out on an ample mow, with the north and south barndoor wide open, with hens scratching down on the floor, and expressing themselves in short sentences to each other, now and then lifting up one of those roundelays or hen-songs that are no doubt as good to them as a psalm-tune or a love-song; with swallows flying in and out, and clouds floating over the sun, raising or lowering the light on our book. Can anything be sweeter than such reading of power, or story-weaving magician, or magister? Yes. It is even sweeter to have the letters grow dim, and run about the page, and disappear, while the hands relax, and the book, gently swaying, comes down on your breast, and visions from within open their clear faces on your, and the hours go by so softly that you will not believe that the sun is low in the west, and that those voices are of folks out after you to come in to supper!
—Henry Ward Beecher, from “Summer Reading,” Eyes and Ears