Honey moon keep a shining in June,
Your silvery beams will bring love’s dreams …
The much-maligned season of summer has been with us since the Saturday before Memorial Day, when we finally bid the 40s a not-so-fond farewell. We can complain only about the heat now. I complain only about the cold because it dominates two-thirds of the year. Heat can be withering, but it will be gone too soon.
As my patient walking partner will tell you, I complain about weather most of the year, but in summer I am in full praise mode. It’s all about warmth. In winter, I praise relative warmth (even the 40s get their due). In spring, I praise grudging warmth (the sun is trying, it really is, as it creeps north, inch by inch, measured along the western horizon). In autumn, I praise lingering warmth as the feckless sun plots an annual escape to its other lover, the Southern hemisphere. In summer, warmth rules — and can be forgiven, in my opinion, if occasionally it gets carried away.
I love lukewarm summer mornings, bordering on cool, rousing the birds at 4 a.m. to their morning psalms, sweetening the soft air with song in the grey pre-dawn. Summer mornings offer a largesse of extra hours, so jealously guarded until recently by winter’s austere dominion. Early morning is now a viable option, inviting emergence from my bedding cocoon, giving reason to rise if only to sample and savor the awakening world, runners and walkers and their dogs, workers setting about their daily commerce.
No price is exacted for getting out of bed on a summer morning, no chill tempts me back under covers for a few more comforting moments, forcing a daily battle of will vs. chill. In winter, getting out of bed is an act of moral courage. In summer, it is effortless.
I love summer’s early morning light, which steals into the room, coaxing me awake well before the alarm clock sounds. Opening blinds reveals sunlight, low-angled, illuminating every crack and crevice, bathing the world in beauty. The more you see, the better you’ll like it, the sun seems to say. Why let an hour lapse? If you can’t get out, sit by an open window and watch the world flow past.
I love the evening warmth as well, but, even more, the light. In June, “night” is a relative term. The day’s afterglow lingers past 9 p.m., extending along the northern horizon. In June, daylight lasts from 5 a.m. till 9 p.m., 16 hours at its peak. And balmy nights feel friendlier, luxuriously perfumed by linden blossoms. Walking at night becomes an olfactory exercise in tree inventory. The undifferentiated mass of leafy growth I take for granted later on, is distinguishable during blossom time, a tutorial on how many lindens, catalpas, black locusts, and horse chestnuts, were planted here once upon a time. The mid-month arrival of fireflies makes me wish we could do without streetlights for the next several weeks.
Summer afternoons, admittedly, are an acquired taste, but the sun overhead whitewashes cumulus clouds and thunderheads, adrift in the blue vault above. The midday heat can be withering, but that’s why trees invented shade and why people invented front porches and back decks. The formerly frigid dead zones of winter are transformed into leafy oases that sway in the breeze and let in enough dappled sunlight to make even sidewalks dance with fancy finery.
In summer, interior living spaces become air-conditioned fortresses, but when temps are tolerable, opening the tall casement windows that run the width of my living room draws the outdoors in. It reminds me of summers spent reading on an enclosed porch, as I grew painfully up, socially awkward, and turning inward — into myself, into books, but also into summer itself. Most of the year I fret about how many books I haven’t read. In summer I am content with the Book of Nature.
A summer afternoon’s deep stillness is worth the walk — if I can dodge the lawn care services, which compete to out-decibel the cicadas with their infernal noisemakers. Soon enough though, the ethereal balm of crickets will arrive to soothe my aggravated ears. Handling the afternoon heat requires cultivating a comfort level with the fine sheen of sweat that is our God-given, breeze-activated cooling mechanism. It sure beats dogs’ dangling tongues. At some point each summer, I am unable to recall the last time I wore a jacket or coat. I love forgetting what it feels like to be cold.
I love summer because it is stingier with rain and more generous with sunshine. The grass browns up, but the lawns are white with clover flowers, prairie plants with deep roots grow tall, where they’re allowed to, and all feels full and right with the natural world.
I have dreamed of this so often during the long 7-8 months of late autumn/midwinter/early spring. Here in the upper Midwest, we are given four months of non-chilly, non-overcast, sun-basted weather to savor — five months if we’re lucky. Sans smart phones, unmediated by windshields and A/C, summer is a lovely space and time that I try never to take for granted.
Let the water sprinklers strafe your legs as you pass, contemplate the caterpillars dangling over the sidewalk by a thread from the tree above. Learn the names of roadside wildflowers — purple chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed Susans, bee balm, purple coneflowers.
Sample summer’s buffet. Inhale its bouquet.
Here. Now. Mid-June. Summer Solstice.
Exactly where I want to be.