In case you haven’t marked your calendar yet, the 2018 summer solstice, the official beginning of summer in the northern hemisphere, will be at 5:07 AM (Central Standard Time) on Thursday, June 21st. Which means, on the face of it, we shouldn’t have to crank down the AC for almost a month from now.
And in many sections of the northern hemisphere that is most certainly true.
But where I live, on the Texas Gulf coast, June 21st will seem less like the beginning of the season and more like midsummer. And unlike Mr. Shakespeare’s famous title, it will likely not be a dream, but more of a nightmare.
Throughout literary history authors and poets have paid sweet homage to this particular season. Shakespeare himself compared a beautiful lass, in one of his best sonnets, to summer’s day.
Believe me, where I live this wouldn’t be a compliment.
Hereabouts, where the temperature is expected to reach a hundred degrees in a few days and stay in that lofty neighborhood through September, we’re more inclined to relate to some writers’ more realistic descriptions of what we’re more used to.
Here, then, are a few painfully accurate word pictures from some fine wordsmiths.
“Hot weather opens the skull of a city,” Truman Capote wrote in Summer Crossing, “exposing its white brain, and its heart of nerves, which sizzle like the wires inside a lightbulb. And there exudes a sour extra-human smell that makes the very stone seem flesh-alive, webbed and pulsing.”
Then there’s this, from Perdido Street Station by China Miéville: “The summer stretched out the daylight as if on a rack. Each moment was drawn out until its anatomy collapsed. Time broke down. The day progressed in an endless sequence of dead moments.”
I’ve been stretched out on that rack myself.
“The morning heat,” Erik Tomblin wrote in Riverside Blues, “had already soaked through the walls, rising up from the floor like a ghost of summers past.”
Been there, too.
Here’s my absolute favorite, from the opening pages of To Kill a Mockingbird by Miss Harper Lee, who was a childhood friend and neighbor of Truman Capote in the same little southern town before they were both elevated to literary royalty. “Maycomb was an old town,” Miss Lee wrote, perfectly describing a town and a southern summer, “but it was a tired old town when I first knew it. In rainy weather the streets turned to red slop; grass grew on the sidewalks, the courthouse sagged in the square. Somehow, it was hotter then: a black dog suffered on a summer’s day; bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.”
Down here we might as well face the fact that we are in for a long hot summer, like the ones so aptly described by those wordsmiths. One remedy will be to stock up on some good books and find a cool place to read them.
Of course, that’s my suggestion for a remedy to most of life’s problems.
If you have a suggestion or two for summer reading, how about sharing them here.