Thursday, June 23, 2005

rise up singing

A mere two days into the season, and a couple weeks after an uncomfortable and premature heat wave, Summer is here. Ahhhhhh.

On Tuesday, with the windows down while driving back roads (to avoid traffic jams), I realized how much I enjoy my hair blown in the breeze. It can get in my eyes if it wants, as long as it brushes my cheek and tickles my neck. If it were any longer, it would be an inconvenience: any shorter, and it wouldn't even be an experience. The fact that I must tend to it post-tousle is mildly disappointing, as if I were required to erase the inelegant delight from existence. Once home in the evening, the hair had its freedom and enjoyed even the artificial breeze of the fan. Summer exerted its first day power by illuminating the sky past 9:00pm.

On Wednesday, I had a lunch that tasted like summer -- baby spinach and radicchio salad with pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and balsamic vinaigrette. Mmmmmmm. A series of rainstorms scrubbed the air clean and made everything feel new. Worries about not having an umbrella came only after the notion of going outside to splash in the puddles. I thought about all the thunderstorms I've watched with my Mom on the front porch swing, and how our family found fun in cars, tents, or recreation halls when rain thumped its camping song on the metal, canvas, or wood roof overhead.

Today, the temperature was perfect, the sky was a rich blue, the trees were vibrant green, the sun was mighty, and the everso-slight breeze was just enough to animate it all. A bird outside my office window sang joyously for hours on end, never taking a break or flying away for even a moment. I escaped at noon (second day in a row!) to have lunch with my husband, a lovely thing to do made more special by the loveliness of the day.

As seasons go, I've always tended to favor Autumn with its crisp air and outburst of color. I've known so many people for whom Summer is the hands-down winner. But for me, Spring's invigorating, newborn bounty follows closely on the heels of Autumn, and the tabula rasa of Winter has always been appealing despite the cold. If I were to rank them, Summer would be dead last. An interesting notion considering the depth to which I am enjoying it this week.

Ask me again when the temperatures and humidity go triple digits, and I'll reiterate Summer's last place finish (despite central air conditioning).

Verlyn Klinkenborg had a piece in the New York Times this week, one which waxes rhapsodic far more eloquently than my ramblings above. It is here in its entirety (because I fear future access to the link will require payment to read).

The Reward of Good Weather

Weather is not primarily a moral affair. We do not deserve a long, slow patch of hot weather, like the one that sat on the city in early June, any more than we deserve the extraordinarily beautiful evenings that have come with these longest days of the year. Deserving has nothing to do with it. The weather comes, it goes, and sometimes it's occluded. The days of seeing the wrath of God in a prolonged drought or a heavy windstorm - believing that bad weather chastens our bad actions, in other words - are pretty much past. One sobering irony of global warming is the thought that it threatens to make weather moral again in a very different way.

But these are thoughts too puzzling for the fine weather of these last few evenings, when it is almost impossible not to feel that this has come to us by right - as our due after a run of sticky days and as the best of what the month of June has to offer anyway.

These are the nights for stoop sitting, not in long-suffering, as though we felt the curse of Cain on our shoulders, but like the young man and his dog I passed the other evening. Both sat quietly, watching the street. You could tell that what they were really doing was feeling the shape of the cool air around their bodies. It would have been a pleasure in itself, but it was all the more pleasurable for the memory of that hot spell.

On a long, horizontal evening, when the whole sky seems to have slipped westward, New York becomes a different city. The weary tension embedded in a heat wave has slipped away, and a kind of expansiveness comes over the neighborhoods again, as if people could suddenly see and hear each other again now that the stale air has been dispelled.

I took a taxi up Central Park West the other night, and at every block, a small colony of neighbors from the buildings nearby had settled under the trees and on the benches in the park. The temperature was in the mid-60's, and the sky in the west was breaking up in a way that was part Remington and part Turner. A pair of schoolgirls playfully slapped each other on a bench while the boy next to them stared at his cellphone. The light from the streetlamps drifted down upon them.

This is a city of stone and metal, but it's softened by the fact that we live in a world of probabilities, not certainties. When the hot weather squelches us, and New Jersey disappears in the brown fug, it's easy to become grateful for the simple fact that the earth revolves, setting up currents that will eventually blow this stuff away.

Of course, the long, cool nights will blow away too, much as we would like them to linger. And when they do, we will wake to a different city yet again.

A fond farewell this third late evening in a row. Sleep awaits. Zzzzzzzzz.

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