Word Witchcraft

Burn Brightly This Summer

Let's dance until the birds sing, and set fire to that which cages us.

Harmony Birch
Jun 22, 2023
7 min read
Queer MagicNeuroqueer MagicAncestors
Three obviously related people, a young woman in pajamas, a middle-aged man in a button-down, and a tween with a forced smile giggle and clasp hands whilst lying side by side on a giant mattress.

“You’re in your sadboi era,” my partner repeats lately--I suppose he’s a smidge too old to have adopted the term sad girl. He’s not wrong; I’ve been spending my nights listening to Taylor Swift croon about lost love. I spend hours on the porch writing love notes, tearing up at yesterday’s Democracy Now episode. I come home often feeling hollow. My words are used up.

“Is it supposed to be like this?” I ask him. “When do I stop feeling like this?”

My primary care physician wrote that I had depression in her report. I scoffed; I’m not depressed; I’m burnt out. I’m addicted to stress, I explain.

A manic whose lows are never that low, I run on a high frequency. I’m comfortable with chaos. It often feels like home.

We’re all like this. Me and my clan. We all burn too bright, cycling through matches. This consistent angst, paired with magnificent joy and pleasure, feels like summer to me.

If there’s one thing my family excels at, it’s a party. My parents, with their magnetic personalities, know the temperature and controls, the recipe, for feeling alive.

I’ve been bicoastal since the age of six, and summer often meant isolation and adventure. Every summer, I left whatever home I’d been accustomed to for the past nine months, whatever community I’d grown into, and started again in a home that was mine but not mine. Every summer, I reflected on what love was, what community was, and where I belonged. Then I returned to a home I’d nearly forgotten in my three months away that had grown without me.

My favorite summers to date were the summer before college and the summer afterward. The first occurred as everything I’d built as a somewhat well-adjusted 18-year-old was crumbling. My first love was on his way out. I was about to start over… again. But it was a freedom  I’d never experienced before.  I went to concerts in Boston, my friends and I loitered in parking lots, and I drank apple juice and whiskey in a tent while playing a DnD game that featured a Godzilla-sized Whoopie Goldberg.

Four generations crowd into a single frame. A young woman with a crown of vines, a child holding her toy dog, an older woman with white hair, glasses, and a gentle smile, and a mother with a wide grin. A branch from a willow tree reaches down to embrace them.

The following summer, I came home, and everything had changed. My father’s 15-year relationship was ending, which meant I was losing a parent figure. I worked two jobs, each eight miles from home in opposite directions, and commuted via bike. I worked late nights and slept until 3 p.m. I was heartbroken over the demise of my first relationship and navigating a new relationship with a controlling and abusive partner.

Yet, still, I remember the Dennys, where I cried and laughed with my friends. I remember buying my first pipe and then watching Frozen at Hampton Beach. I remember giggling as we threw condoms at our guy friend and how, from then on, his mother was convinced that we were all in love with him.

Summers gave me the confidence for independence. I fell in love with my best friend one summer as we navigated our first internships together and struggled through poverty. That summer, I discovered I could have a healthy relationship with someone.

I met another best friend one summer in a cockroach-infested apartment in Los Angeles. That summer, I lived off peanut butter for a week, got to fly a plane, and discovered how exploitative the workforce could be.

I moved to Vermont the summer after college graduation and signed the lease on my first apartment. I was a new driver speeding through the mountains with my sunroof down and RiotGrrl music blasting as I covered bacon festivals, cow parades, murder cases, and fires for my brand-new job as a reporter.

A couple walks through a parade. His arm wraps around her. She waves a bisexual pride flag. She’s giggling. His eyes crinkle softly. Surrounding them, people shout their love for libraries. An institution they both work for and represent. Both proudly sport Drag Storytime pins. They feel loved and proud; not pictured is a group of beloved friends who’ve chosen to march with them.

Summer was my first pride, and in Manhattan, no less. I wasn’t out yet, but I had an intense crush on yet another best friend, who I was there to support. It flicked a light switch. Was this, maybe, not an exception for me but a rule? Could this pride be mine too? We sparkled.

One summer, I spent over a month in Europe staying in hostels where, despite my social anxiety, I made new friends; where I hooked up with a girl for the first time in a nightclub… and then a second girl in a second night club; where I got so sick that I barely left the house for a month when I returned home.

Two women in hiking attire stand amidst giant trees and grin for a selfie. The confidence that comes from adventure radiates off of them.

Summer is two west coast road trips with my best friend and one with my partner, where these two people got to meet me in a way no one else has, and they decided to accept me and double down on their love.

Summer is when I learned that although I’m awkward and weird, I’m a *Fun Chick* and that love can be abundant. Summer is when I went to my first Phish concert as an adult and finally accepted and embraced the term hippie.

Summer as a small child was hippie music festivals hula hooping on top of our van and, later, on stage, learning about plebian aliens, and being gifted rainbow fairy wings from sparkling groupies.

For the past five years, I’ve lived in New York. I moved during the summer. My father reluctantly helped me. We lugged dressers up two flights of stairs and into a closet-sized room.

Summer was the first time I tried hallucinogens on a lake, on a boat, with a group of divorced, middle-aged, family friends.

Summer means rivers, lakes, and oceans, gossiping about life with my siblings. Summers are vineyards with Mom and Grandma.

Summers are driving my little brother around while he tries to get my goat and tells me everything he’s been waiting months to say, and being amazed as I watch his little philosopher brain develop and grow.

Summers are counting rats with my other little brother as they scuffle along our path while we walk through my neighborhood. This brother is grown and seems to have passed through the chaos and out the other side. When did my little Bubby become more adult than me? Then our natural roles are restored as I watch him skateboard in an empty subway car.

A girl in a blue polka dot dress links arms with two young men. One dashingly squints at the camera, and the other (younger than his companions) gives an adorable dimpled grin. They stand on a beach, finally whole.

Summers are forever ingrained as the time when I watched my youngest sibling sleep and realized what parental love could feel like. Sitting in bed watching her tiny baby's chest rise and fall. Holding their hand as they point at flowers and repeat “pretty” over and over again. Giggling as she demands, “Tickle my belly, tickle my back.” Sitting in their room as they explain the intricacies of slime or the newest, coolest Disney show.

One summer, at 15, I rediscovered forgotten childhood witchcraft. I buried myself in books, communed with mountain lions, met a wise man who gave me a magic wand, and discovered that I was still wild and powerful.

Summers in the North East are sticky and oppressive. Summers in a desert valley in the Pacific North West are dry enough to bleed lips. They smell like sulfur and look like a red apocalyptic sky.

Summer is the time when I confront the Wendy Darling role I fall so quickly into. The bossy, sensible girl, always loving, always loved, but forever on the outside. I shake off my tightly held control; I open up my heart and let my freak flag fly. Summer is the time when we’re given permission to burn brightly in the name of pleasure and joy. If the world is ending, why not dance?

All of this serves as a prelude to this year’s Summer Solstice playlist. 

This has been my practice for embracing the fire. Let’s wade through the angst, dance until the birds sing, and set fire to that which cages us. Let yourself be wild; let yourself burn.

Happy dancing and Blessed Fucking Be!

Harmony (She/her) is an oldest daughter and big sister to three of the coolest kids on earth. She’s also a librarian with a particular fondness for working with adolescents and instruction. She’s often a bisexual, anarchistic, ADHD, disaster. Her witchcraft is usually solitary and eclectic and often expresses itself via kitchen and word witchery. If you’re looking for more of her work, a Google search proves that the internet is eternal. Or you can check out her podcast Rebel Girls Book Club, a quasi-scholarly exercise in close reading with an emphasis on non-hierarchical practices and intersectional feminism. Currently, Harmony is working toward her Queen of Wands era, and she’s truly rooting for y’all to live your best lives.


Inspired to spread some money magic? The Caribbean Women's Health Association is helping to reduce infant mortality rates, connecting immigrants with health care resources, educating about HIV and aids and how to access treatment, and connecting domestic violence survivors with shelter and assistance.

Here is a link to their website: http://www.cwha.org/ and a link to donate.

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