Monday, August 30, 2010

Summertime blues

Sigh. After a week of cooler weather that lulled me into thinking fall might be arriving early, we have been dumped back into the dog days, with highs in the nineties for most of this week. This may be the proper place for a somewhat shocking confession: I don't really like summer. I never have. Even when I was a kid, summer "vacation" to me was just three months during which I wouldn't get to see much of my friends, since most of them lived in other towns and my parents did not care to be treated as a taxi service. A book I was reading last month quoted Henry James as saying, "Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language," and my reaction was, "Not in New Jersey, they aren't." Around here, summer evenings can sometimes be pleasant—if they're tolerably cool and the mosquitoes aren't too bad—but summer afternoons tend to be stifling.

So I always look forward to fall, and you would think I would appreciate the efforts of the local shopkeepers to bring it to me early with their autumn-themed displays. To me, however, those cheerful cheerful stuffed scarecrows and bundles of bright leaves have exactly the opposite effect. When the temperature is 93 degrees, it's perfectly obvious that fall isn't here, and pretending it is just seems like a cruel joke.

Actually, I think I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I generally resent the way stores always try to get the jump on the natural cycle of the seasons. Around here, for example, the "back to school" displays went up before school had been out a month, and now, with the schools not even open yet, they're already giving way to scarecrows and bags of candy for Halloween, which is still over two months away. But by the time Halloween actually gets here, there won't be so much as a plastic pumpkin to be found, because the shelves will already be decked out in their Christmas finery (skipping right over Thanksgiving as if it didn't count, since only the grocery stores can actually sell anything for that holiday). Then it will be Valentine red and pink in January, Easter pastels in February while the snow is still thick on the ground, and charcoal and flags for the Glorious Fourth in the middle of April.

Am I the only one who's bugged by this? Am I the only one who feels that to every thing there is a season, and mid-August is not the season for Halloween costumes? I realize the stores just want to sell their wares, and they think they'll sell most if they get an early start. But does it ever occur to them that people might not really be in the mood to do their Christmas shopping in mid-October—that in fact, seeing those premature reminders of the approaching festive season may actually sap their holiday cheer before the holiday even arrives?

To me, it seems like anyone who appreciates nature at all should want to recognize and respect the cycle of the seasons. That's why I like to eat asparagus in April, strawberries in June, zucchini in July, tomatoes in September, and apples in October. I like to appreciate what the earth has to offer in its proper season, rather than buying strawberries shipped up from Guatemala in the middle of winter (which are never much good anyway, since they had to be picked well before they were ripe to survive the journey, and by the time they arrive half of them are still green and the other half already mushy). And I want to put on my Halloween costume at Halloween and put up my Christmas lights at Christmastime—not two months before.

So maybe it's time to get a grip on myself and stop fretting over the hot weather. Maybe I just need to go pick some ripe cherry tomatoes, fix myself a glass of cold lemonade, settle down in the shade, and appreciate what's left of August.
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