Here and now in the heart of summer

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

This summer praise song first ran five years ago, on July 10, 2013. I haven't lost my enthusiasm.

Sometimes I have the feeling I'm summer's only fan. At any rate, I seem to be in the minority. One hardly ever hears anyone, bursting with exuberance, say, "God, I love summer!" anymore. 

God, I love summer! 

Granted, the season has its downside. "Too hot!" "Too humid!" "Too many bugs!" "Too much rain!" "Not enough rain!"

Like all of Chicago's seasons, it is weather-contingent. Last year we suffered through a terrible drought and heat wave. This year, June was rainy and unseasonably chilly. And a new word was added to our weather vocabulary: "derecho." 

In our mad rush to destroy the planet, of course, storms of the century are occurring more than once a century — sometimes more than once a decade. Nowadays when it starts raining, everybody's gut tightens. Get the valuables out of the basement! 

Yet the on-again, off-again deluges created the perfect conditions for a double rainbow a couple of weeks back. And nature treated us to a "super-moon," which I watched rise with my 86-year-old mother on the roof of her condo building. Mom says she's lived long enough, but she never gets tired of the moon.

June was a good month in spite of everything nature hurled at us. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. In the course of one week, I saw Book of Mormon and Amadeus. Two wars with God. That's entertainment.

But here we are in July, the heart of summer, the only month with no school in it. Summer's Saturday. Julie Caesar's month, so give to Caesar what is Caesar's. The rest of the year is given over to God. July, however, is God-given, God giving. A gift. 

It starts with a blast — a celebration of independence, complete with parades, BBQs and, of course, fireworks. We love to blow things up, judging by the war zone out my open windows late that night. I don't understand the fascination, but now The Fourth is finished and July is conducting its slow, languid unfurl.

I resist air conditioning unless absolutely necessary. I only turned it on once all June. We live in a climate with a long winter and spend almost half the year with the heat on and our living spaces sealed off from the outside world. So I hate doing it this time of year. There is something glorious about summer streaming through my windows — sometimes, as Dave Barry once put it, like BBQ sauce oozing through a paper towel. But I'm nostalgic. I grew up sans A/C. I find open windows comforting, even when the heat renders me limp and listless.

I turn it on at night because you just can't sleep when you're sweating, but I love opening my living space to the outer world as often as possible.

Summer is dress-down season where you wear as little as you can get away with; it is the season of hydration and sunscreen. As winter has its depth, summer has its height.

July is the month of lingering leisure and late light. It is the month of vacations, those precious approximations of true freedom. Time to ease into a lower gear. June is all about throttling down. August is all about gearing up. July is the only month unburdened by productivity, if we give ourselves permission. 

It is the month of outdoor theater in Austin Gardens. It is the month of sidewalk sales, Sunday concerts in Scoville Park, outdoor dining, superheroes at the Lake Theatre, sculpted clouds drifting across the blue expanse, Hemingway's birthday, the anniversary of the moon landing, Farmers Market approaching ripeness, block parties, Wright District walking tours, swimming at Ridgeland Common or Rehm Pool — or heading downtown via the Green or Blue lines for double-decker bus rides around the Loop, boat rides, and baseball games at Wrigley or The Cell (if you don't care about the outcome). Last Saturday, I spent a lovely evening in Millennium Park swept away by the New World Symphony. 

This is living.

I harbor a longstanding fantasy that some July I'll take the entire month off and, like Thoreau at Walden Pond, just live, so that when I reach the end, I won't look back and say I didn't. Long walks and bike rides, reading and picnics in our parks (a different one each day), movies at The Lake whenever I need to dodge the heat, dining al fresco with friends I've been meaning to catch up to, watching the sunset from some lofty perch with a great view in all directions, sitting on porches and decks in conversation with close friends deep into the night.

There are three weeks left in July. Don't let the month go by. On second thought, let it go by … slowly, savoring every bachelor's button and Queen Anne's lace by the side of the road. Make the most of it.

The height (and heart) of the season is upon us.

It's July.

God, I love summer.

Contact:
Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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