By Ken Trainor
I am, apparently, summer's only fan. At any rate, I'm in the minority. One never 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 the new word in our weather vocabulary is "derecho."
In our mad rush to destroy the planet, of course, storms of the century are occurring with increasing frequency. Nowadays when it starts raining, everybody's gut tightens. Get the valuables out of the basement!
Yet the on-again, off-again rainstorms 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. My mom says she's lived long enough, but she never gets tired of seeing 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. 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 resist air conditioning unless absolutely necessary. I only turned on the A/C once all June. We live in a climate with a long winter and spend more than half the year with 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. That's how I grew up (sans A/C). I find it comforting, even when the heat renders us limp and listless.
I give in to freon 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, the season of hydration and sun block. 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 fantasy 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.
It is the month of outdoor theater in Austin Gardens (last weekend, in fact, to catch the worthwhile Amadeus before Shakespeare's surfers arrive). 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 (44 this year, heading toward 50), Farmers Market approaching ripeness, block parties, Wright District walking tours, swimming at Rehm Pool — or head 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. It doesn't get better than this.
I have 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 hadn'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 people I've been meaning to catch up with, watching the sunset from some lofty perch with a great view in all directions, and sitting on porches and decks in conversation with close friends deep into the night.
As of the day this appears in print, there are three weeks left in July. Consider this your wake-up call. Don't let the month go by … check that: Let it go by … slowly, savoring every bachelor's button by the side of the road. Make the most of it.
The heart (and height) of the season is upon us.
God, I love summer.
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