summer

Sumer is icumen in. And the livin’ is easy. And the weather is hot. Hot town, summer in the city: the boys of summer, that summer wind, but uh-oh, those hot summer nights, and suddenly last summer…

Beer, patios, music – the estival festival. And the estivation: the sun simmers, and all slumbers summarily. The oven timer of the sun-baking set is the heat-buzzer insect, harbinger of torpor, the sick cadence of the cicada. The warmth of summer incubates the yeast of memory. While we are in the summer, our skin-tracing beads of sweat are the amber of an eternal present glazing us, but when we stop and think of summer, and bite into the word summer as into a warm fresh bun, all the summers of our lived lives and fantasies re-present and blossom in our tongues, our sinuses, our crania, and again before our eyes.

Your summer is your summer. The sound is the same for all, the /s/ that could be fresh or hot, the /m/ ever warm and the /r/ ever soft; the word has come through time no more changed than the form of the dragonflies that darn the warm fabric of the post-solstice air; but in word country, summer may be a meadow or forest or beach or porch and more, but it is multiple worlds, a different geography for each person and at each turning: a magic glass that contains all warm worlds and words in one. And always, at the heart of summer, we are young.

I enter summer as a small boy in Exshaw, walking the highway past village edge to find a swamp called Dragonfly, or climbing Cougar Mountain, knocking rocks past choirs of crocuses, coming back down to chocolate bars and childish trickery, and its soundtrack is the five-note song of a bird whose name I never learned. I see in it road trips on Interstates over the great plains to the sound of Gordon Lightfoot, and beaches with peeling sunburns that made my back feel like a split kielbasa. A yawning time of no school, then later of summer courses, of long days and far walks alone under green branches to broad views, and poems in which things are seen but nothing happens. Days to plant the seeds of romance – much rarer in my younger life than in the songs and movies that told me what should have been.

The ever-young summer is carefree, hopeful times, now grasped like paper fluttering by in the wind of weekday work: stop, swim, sun, sleep, and then again for eight hours it is already autumn. Summer is weakened to a weekend, a dash to a porch and a glass of Pimm’s, and then warm slumber accompanied by the timpani of thunder and the castanets of fat raindrops. Summer is now that other mirror, the one I turn to when I turn off the ice of the office, and looking in it see the frost on my temples melt back to golden straw and the rumpled shirts to skin, and nothing needs a name.

3 responses to “summer

  1. Is that image from Summerhill Stn….?

    And, having just written about “swim” recently, did “swimmer” put your mind on “summer” (with those double Ms resonating betwixt the twain)?

    • Yes, it’s from Summerhill. I took the picture a couple of days ago and decided it would be a good one to do just around now. I was actually a little concerned that I might be doing too many similar words close together, but I really should have put a bit more swimming in this… Perhaps a revision is in order…

      • Too many similar words close together may have its concerns, yes…but then, the fluidity of language is also pretty cool, isn’t it? When I think “word tastings,” I do appreciate your teaching people how to literally feel the word in the mouth, and become conscious of how words are actually formed/made/shaped physiologically, as well as how they were made etymologically.

        And, of course, another familiar association with the word “tasting” is “wine tasting,” which almost always includes commentary on proper pairings. There is a real value to sometimes just “going with the flow” of a word and being able to bounce from one to another as they are paired with complementary words/histories/ideas.

        At the very least, be encouraged that you’ll never run out of words to taste!

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