No one really knows when summer comes, because it does not arrive by calendar but by state of mind. It can kick in when that first hot day in April or May teases us out of a gray March mood or when we first notice the teal color of the lake is returning to its summer blue.

Summer speaks of possibilities: Daylight lingers, school is out and most summer jobs require no homework. Getting outside is effortless, the chore of bundling and bracing for the cold forgotten for the moment. Gardens and farmers markets make cooking lighter.  

The leisure of the moment can be put to wonderful use. There is time in the few extra hours each week to be curious.

Artruck, Open Studios and the Fountain Square, Ethnic Arts and Lakeshore Arts festivals not only showcase the talents of many of our local artists and guest artist and craftspeople, they offer a chance to learn about creativity and community: how they work, how they see the world and express that vision in a meaningful way. A walk around the area will give the feel of the neighborhood and perhaps spur someone on to learn a bit more of Evanston history.

Starlight concerts, performers at local restaurants and at the farmers market provide more than background noise for a summer evening. Listening to the words, the melody, the rhythm and the themes can spark an interest in music or about that genre.

Design Evanston is offering bicycle tours of some of Evanston’s architecturally important structures. Historian Janet Messenger offers occasional neighborhood tours. A visit to the Library or the History Center – before or afterward – can complement the information learned on the tour. Or groups can design their own tours of Evanston using those resources.

Before a kayak or canoe trip, families can learn about the herons and deer and the occasional beaver that call the North Shore Channel home. A boat trip on the lake should include knowledge of Grosse Point Lighthouse and the nearby sunken remnants of ships.

Cooks of any age can try new recipes using local ingredients or find different uses for a familiar herb or vegetable. A good cook must not only be a competent reader, he or she must understand math and proportion and the chemical mysteries of heat.

Budding journalists can describe their adventures, then read about others who chronicled their travels, ideas and experiments. Not just a dead end, dissatisfaction can lead to poetry, music, experimentation or preparation for a new job.

Evanston Cradle to Career initiative is crafting a goal for community literacy. The Library is working with them and the school districts to implement a Big Read this fall. Exercising the mind this summer will get everyone in shape for fall reading and discussion.

Evanston is a cultural dig, with layers of art, music and thought for anyone to sift through. And spending the summer in the company of literature, culture and science is the best vacation of all.