I recently told my wife that summer was my least favourite of the seasons. This came about as part of a conversation where we ranked the yearly changes. Apart from being the standard sexy kind of discussions we partake in, the conversation came about after we were both singing autumn’s praises. If the seasons were our children, autumn would be the child who we would never outright describe as our favourite but who everyone would know was anyway.
It’s the colours for me. The flora bursting forth with reds, oranges, and yellows. Although bursting is probably the wrong word, since their leaves are actually being leached of their life-giving green; but in that quiet death, they have never looked so beautiful. The other reason is the temperature. Autumn provides an interesting mix of warm to cool as the season ages. An optimal range that allows me to either go out and enjoy nature or hide away inside and rug up against it. My wife and I are also both blonde and fair skinned, so any day where we can step outside without sunscreen and not turn crispy, is a win.
Which brings us to summer, the crispy season.
First, it’s negatives, as I see them. The sun. Apart from frying us — I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic when I say that, we live in Australia, or more specifically under a hole in the ozone layer, and as such can burn in as little as ten minutes during the suns worst, trust me, I have an app that tells me so — it also sets our country ablaze. It seems as though most of Australia is on fire at the moment, with little real relief on offer.
Then there’s the heat itself; stifling and stuffy. The kind of heat that makes it hard to get around in. It becomes oppressive. If I spend too long in it I can feel the heat pressing down on me until I just want to collapse into a puddle of goo. It’s the kind of heat that hangs in the air, so that I feel as if I’m in a sauna breathing in big lungfuls of steam.
Which brings us to sweat. The clammy feel of which is bad enough, but that also makes all my clothes prone to being victims of sweat stains, and me with them.
Then there’s all the other little things. The grass becomes shrivelled and hard underfoot. There’s a constant glare reflecting from every surface. My car becomes an oven, the steering wheel impossible to touch. I’ve had shoes melt onto bitumen while I was wearing them.
In summer I feel perpetually uncomfortable, with no real relief on offer until I am once more in the cool embrace of air conditioning. For me, it’s a season to hide from, to wait out until the vengeful sun is once more laying waste to the opposite side of the globe.
And yet, there’s an undeniable nostalgia to summer.
I don’t know if it’s the long days or the time off over the holiday period, but summer feels like it did when I was younger, when time had a different meaning. When a single day could seem to last an eternity, which you could fill with a million different things.
I grew up in country Victoria, in an old weatherboard house — half of which once had a life as part of a hospital — that sat on six acres of land. It sits there still. There has never been air conditioning in that house, and I don’t know if standing fans just weren’t as common when I was younger or if my parents simply refused to buy them, but they didn’t exist within our walls either. What did exist were six people. On the days when the sun was at its worst I remember sitting in the dark lounge room, the heavy awnings drawn, reading a book or watching tv, shirtless, aware of beads of sweat running down my sides. My brothers, sister, and Mum were usually doing the same, albeit it other rooms of the house, and it was only my Dad, despite being fairer than any of us, who would stubbornly brave the UV, determined not to “waste the day”. When I think of summer, that’s what I think of; and despite probably not being overly impressed with the situation when I was younger, nostalgia has worked its magic on those memories, raising them to something special and golden. The period of my life when I had time to just lie around with my family and read books.
That too is summer for me.
Summer also contains within in it (at least for the country I live in) two other nostalgic elements. Christmas and New Years. I’ve noticed I’ve started doing this thing where when I say the word Christmas, I hit the r sound harder than needed. It gives the word a crisp sound, elevating it about the standard noun. I say it with revenance. Not because I believe a being we call Christ was born on December 25th, but because the celebration itself has become something to revere. It was always a highlight of the year when I was young, and it’s a highlight of my year now. I love it, and it too is inextricably linked to summer; as strange as I know that to be for my Austrian family members.
Likewise for the new year. The period where we get a reset. A chance to take stock, and plan for something more. That’s summer too.
As is ice cream. Cold beers in the park. Sport playing on the TV in the background. Late night walks in the fading sunlight. Forgetting what being cold feels like. The cool relief of diving into a pool of water. Or always having sufficient doses of vitamin D.
Summer may be my least favourite of the seasons, but it is…summer, and all the things that word contains.
Maybe the polite way to put it is this: Summer is one of my top four favourite seasons.