There is a day well into the official, astronomical season when summer truly arrives. It is no specific day of the calendar, and it is usually a different day for each of us. It is a day well past the first few hot days, and it always takes us by a calm surprise. It is the first day we feel the summer season and its connection to all of the summers in our past.
One day last week in the early evening I drove up to Baltimore to see a friend on his boat. He had returned from a cruise to Mexico and Cuba (he’s a citizen of Great Britain) and had brought his skipjack-style boat back to its birthplace in hopes of finding a new owner interested in local sailing history. He tied up to a friend’s dock in a creek I knew well but hadn’t been to in quite a while, so for me driving to it was full of reminders of good times from years ago.
Going across the high span of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, from that height, with that late-in-the-day angle of sunlight, the waters of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay beyond appeared remarkably blue (but I knew damned well that close-up the water is much more of a dirty brown!) The water’s color was set off by the full greens of the bordering trees and grasses, and after I crossed the bridge span a very white egret lazily flew across the road, it’s pure color a contrast, an accent to everything in sight. Damned if this industrial side of Baltimore didn’t look and feel full of natural life. In the words of Seals and Croft in their old song Summer Breeze, “July is dressed up and playing her tune . . . “
I pulled off the highway near the decrepit shell of the old Bethlehem Steel factory (that’s the pic above), noticing, in the foreground of the rusting steel structure, quite a variety of green lowland vegetation, all of it seeming especially verdant and lush by comparison to the decaying building. I drove on, windows down because the AC in my Jeep Wrangler quit working a couple of summers ago. Different smells flooded over me, washing in through the windows as I passed through patches of shade, a long dip in the road near the brackish water, behind a diesel truck, and over some fresh tar patching. No one will ever make a perfume to mimic it, but sometimes, just sometimes, hot concrete and tar smells surprisingly good (but only because it revives memories made in hot city weather!)
The simple sights, the familiar smells, the sunshine, the heat, a slight breeze in the trees and over the water and brushing over my tanned body, the feel of my muscles as I relax after a day of physical work, kicking back with old friends . . . ya, summer is here.
2014, Mik Hetu, author of Napism.Info (for people who take their naps “religiously”)