On this Summer Solstice, I’ve dug into my archives for Hum Time, an essay that appeared in July/August issue of Vermont Magazine in 1992, when the world was young and green.
Hail the Summer Solstice! It’s the longest day of the year, the beginning of summer – the shortest season by far, here in Vermont.
The day following the solstice, with our tomato plants barely transplanted and the canner not yet hauled out of the basement, and we have already begun that slow long slide toward frost. Scientifically speaking, the days shrink as summer unrolls; nevertheless, the experience of summer in Vermont is of one luxurious day stretching out to meet another. Summer here defies science. While the daylight decreases, we bask in the magical illusion of endless perfection, an illusion sustained by the landscape of mountains holding hands with the cloud-spattered sky.
I gaze at the hillside across the West River and know with my brain that winter returns, relentlessly, in its season; with my heart I believe that the hillside will remain green forever. But my summer behavior belies any delusion of summer without end. Like so many Vermonters, I seize each summer day, luscious in its promise of endless sunlight and warmth, because I know winter returns in just a few months.
The illusion of summer everlasting begins with the early hours of the day’s delicate air, the early air that tastes sweet in its coolness, green in its dampness, happy in its promise of morning yet to come. The morning follows: a morning of prose splashed down on a page, then trimmed tight – but not taut. Summer prose has a luxuriant quality, a floral abundance that carries us over to noon, a taste of melon, a glance at the mail. Then a lull time, hum time, nap time. The children sweat lightly in their cribs. The damp curls on their sweet napes stick into the afternoon. Playtime, water time, swim time; I stretch out on the grass by the side of the lake. For a moment that lasts an eternity, I make an in-depth study of the sky and briefly grasp the meaning of a peaceable life shimmering in sunshine.
The annoyances of late afternoon are inescapable, even in summer: cranky children, tired mom, and dinner still to prepare. The children’s baths completes the utter devastation of domestic order. Yet miraculously, by seven, with daylight dimming to feather feather gray, the children sleep, and the adults garden, visit, and dine.
Moths and June bugs bang against the screen as dark settles around the reading lamp by the love seat during the last hour of wakefulness, an hour spend reading. Finally, a shower and the delicious touch of clean flesh of fresh sheets. Short sleep completes another perfect summer day in Vermont.