Saturday, August 30, 2014


Some years ago, on a winter Sunday, a friend told me, "You know, I really miss summer. In summer things are alive. Even bugs are alive." The day was nothing unusual for a local winter: an afternoon temperature in the mid-forties, an overcast sky, maybe some drizzle, dark bare trees. I did not wholly agree. For one thing, I grew up in colder places, and would have been happy to see more snow and lower temperatures. For another, I find running more comfortable in cool weather than in hot. But I understood what he meant.

We are about at the end of another Washington summer. It was a comfortable one as they go. If I chose the shaded side of the street on lunchtime walks, it was to improve comfort, not to avoid discomfort. I think that there may have been one day I felt very uncomfortable running on a weekend afternoon: most summers there are a dozen or more. There has been no stretch like that I encountered my first summer here  and which almost fixed my notion: temperature above 90 F, high humidity, a low sky the color of freshly poured concrete.

I can do without many of the bugs, particularly the mosquitoes. But I do like the lightning bugs early in an eastern summer. I think they disappeared on the early side this year because it was drier and cooler. And I like the cicadas and crickets late. A couple of weeks ago they made a sound as of little bells shaken. Now they are back to the late summer sound I'm used too, less silvery and raspier. I like to watch the bees and butterflies on our flowers and shrubs.

And I enjoy the summer fruits and vegetables. My father did, and in fact discovered an allergy awakened by too many tomatoes and ears of corn. I have long passed the age at which he broke out in hives, so either I don't have the allergic trait, or I get through less of that produce. But from early summer we have fresh tomatoes always in the kitchen, corn sometimes, peaches usually, berries and plums from time to time.

Even the weather can be enjoyed, if one acts prudently. The runner has to know the intervals of sun and shade on his route, when to start, sometimes when to walk. But once he or she has learned to run in the Potomac summer, the rest of the day seems not so bad.

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