It’s hot out. 90 degrees. My company just sent out a notification that we’re in voluntary energy reduction to try to prevent rolling blackouts. That’s how you know it’s summer… when the electrical grid is struggling to keep up and you’re glad that your California-raised mother taught you how to keep a house reasonably cool without AC.
And Sunday is the equinox, the longest day of the year! Last night I was coming home from the Plato book club discussion at about 9:30, listening to the Celtics on the radio as I drove through Boston. On the horizon, that late at night, there was still the touch of color from a sunset that has not quite succumbed to night.
It’s so amazingly liberating to bare skin. There is a phenomenal feeling to the hot sun against your skin, melting away the shell of winter. There’s the omnipresent buzz of summer: of lawnmowers and chainsaws and insects and leafblowers and circular saws slicing out new porches for backyard barbecues. There’s the nightly throwing-open of windows, to invite in the sounds and smells and relative coolness of the brief dark of night, which inevitably leads to you being awoken at 5 am by a rousing chorus of birdsong in the dawn.
And there’s the food — the amazing bounty of the land. December knows nothing like a June strawberry, and February has forgotten the explosion of taste that comes with a sunwarmed raspberry eaten straight off the bush in the backyard. The winter-dulled palate is amazed by the variety, abundance and excellence of everything, until it becomes sated and blase by the oppressive humidity of August.
But now, in June, this liberation is new and freeing. The blow-up pool in the back yard doesn’t have that patina that such pools so quickly obtain. The stack of swim diapers is high. The jug of bubble-stuff nearly unmolested. We have forgotten the sensations of sunburn and bugbite, and see only the brightness, and the undimmed memory that with heat comes leisure. (I confess that I wonder if my sons will have any such associations — my sister recently “booked” her summer and realized that her kids only get about 4 weeks of Doing-Nothingage, which I recall being the dominant component of my summers when I was their age.)
There is swimming ahead, and parks. There are camping and hikes. There are roadtrips across haze-shrouded hills when the black asphalt waves in the heat. There’s whitewater river rafting (for reals!), ocean-cool downs and back yard BBQs.
And as quickly as it comes, I know, it fades again into the joyful and exuberant solemnity of autumn. But that is beyond tomorrow, and next week, and next month. It is a full season away. Today, my friends, we celebrate summer.