Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Summer, Verano, Eté, лето, Sommer...Whatever You Call It, It's Over
Summer in these parts is spectacular. There’s no other word for it. Living in a place with a challenging climate like northern Maine’s, one tends to gain an appreciation for weather that doesn’t try to kill you and wreck your stuff. Yes, we do get some nasty thunderstorms and the occasional stifling hot stretch in the summertime, but that’s pretty easy to deal with when compared to the prospect of clearing two feet of wet heavy snow from your roof or bundling up against temperatures of 20 below zero. When people around here complain about a hot day in the summer, a frequent retort from my fellow winter-loathers is “At least you don’t have to shovel the heat.”
But for me, it’s not just the summer weather that appeals, but the summer attitude. It’s that feel in the air that starts on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend and ends abruptly the day after Labor Day. You might describe it as the equivalent of the first time each year when you open the windows in the house and let the fresh air in.
There is a feeling of freedom in the air. College students are home for the summer. School kids are on a long break. Adults are taking time off from work. People around town are towing boats to the lake, tending gardens, taking leisurely walks, grilling burgers, and fishing in the river. Even if you are working or taking summer classes, it just feels different during the summer months. It’s almost as if a collective weight on our shoulders, if not entirely lifted, has been lightened.
Many new faces appear in our lives in the summer. People who have long since moved away come back to visit. It’s not unusual to be picking up a few things at the grocery store in the summer and run into a high school classmate you haven’t seen since senior English class over a quarter century ago. Tourists without specific roots in the community pass through, seeing with new perspectives the things that we locals often take for granted. For visitors, that statue in the park that we barely give a second glance on our way to work each day becomes the focus of discussion and photographs. The “wallpaper” of our lives becomes a vivid portrait to someone else.
Places and things that are shuttered during the cold weather months open for business again. The dairy bar, the golf course, the community band, the farmer’s markets…they all set forth pleasant new opportunities for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the unique pleasures of where we live. Roadside stands are unboarded, and go from selling just fiddleheads around Memorial Day to strawberries and cut flowers around the 4th of July, to a vast selection of fruits and vegetables by Labor Day. And many of these stands still go by the honor system. Signs next to a small container simply state the prices of items and ask that the customer put the money in the box.
Special events allow us all to mingle and relax. Agricultural fairs, festivals, parades, concerts, church suppers and picnics, and numerous other opportunities present themselves almost every weekend. Few if any of these are of the caliber to be featured on the Travel Channel. Heck, most don’t even merit a mention on the Maine Tourism Board’s website, yet we turn out for them in droves anyway. After all, how many chances does a person get to have a piece of the world’s largest ploye? We are fed, entertained, and most importantly I think, have some quality time with our family, friends, neighbors and visitors.
The summer attitude is even reflected in the clothing we wear. Loud Hawaiian shirts and fluorescent yellow flip-flops don’t even generate a second glance in the summer months. An older woman wearing a huge floppy hat and bright blue sundress with smiling dolphins on it doesn’t turn a head. A middle-aged man in plaid shorts and a striped shirt? Meh. It’s summertime. Who cares? Kids wear only a bathing suit (usually the same one) for days in a row, shirtless teenagers skateboard in the park, and even business types go without a tie from time to time. I actually saw my perennially conservative and buttoned-down boss wear khaki shorts to work one especially humid Saturday. As for me, I take great pleasure at this time of year in going as many consecutive days as I can without wearing socks. Fashion becomes relative between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
This is the time of year we live for around here. It’s this time of year that keeps us going when there’s a driving blizzard in January and we have to shovel out the driveway in dawn darkness just to get to work.
The whole time we are enjoying summer however, we watch the pages on the calendar falling away out of the corners of our eyes. Memorial Day is followed in short order by June, which leads to July, and then August. The next thing we know, Labor Day Weekend is here. You can feel it coming before September even starts. Fewer and fewer vacationers and other visitors are around. More and more camps at the lake are closed up. School-aged kids are sent to bed earlier to get in the groove for the daily routine soon to come with the start of another academic year. College kids pack up their stuff and head back to their studies. Nature lets you know that Labor Day and all it implies is on the way too. First you take the air conditioner out of the window, then you stop using a fan in the window, and sometimes you are even sleeping through the night with the windows closed by the beginning of September. The lushness of our surroundings is paler, less vivid. Brown is slowly creeping in to replace the greenery. Some leaves have even started to fall, and quite a few flowers and seasonal plants have “gone by” as my grandmother used to say.
The day after Labor Day, which is when I am writing this, can be sobering. Yes, the calendar still says it is summer, and the thermometer outside my office reads 72 degrees, but it’s not summer anymore. Not really. Vacations are over and the visitors have gone home. We are back at work, back at school. The special events have been held. It’s time to dress more practically. Noses to the grindstone people, there’s serious business to attend to now!
Just until Memorial Day Weekend, 2013.