Kate Flora: Although the past week’s heat has temporarily made us forget, summer has taken its time arriving in Maine this year. A few weeks ago, we were still turning the heat on in the early morning and evening, and the gardens were dawdling, not ready to commit to growth and flowers. But today was utterly gorgeous. Warm sun, blue sea, refreshing breezes.
We’re on the ocean, and when it is finally warm enough for a swim in the sea differs every summer. Sometimes it takes until mid-July. Sometimes an early chill ends swimming by Labor Day. This year, I despaired of it ever warming up.
I have no idea why swimming is so important to me, or why it is, to me, the essence of summer. I guess it’s because we lived on a lake, growing up, and the lake was the center of so much family activity. After John, Sara, and I had done our chores, we would be allowed to go down to the pond and swim. My mother had many rules, of course. There was the “wait an hour after eating” rule. There was the “you have to throw twenty rocks out of the pond” rule, which resulted, over many years with a swimming area that had a sandy bottom. There was always leaf mulch to rakes up from the shore, drained in old wire egg baskets, and used a mulch in the garden. There was the necessity for an adult to be present.
Often, as we swam there, friends and neighbors would arrive. The adults would swim, then sit on the shore and catch up while kids swam. Yes, we swam until our lips were blue. Then we could up to and lie in the field on our towels, warming up to go do it again. Stately loons would swim by, indifferent to our presence.
Today, the ocean was finally warm enough for a swim, and so summer has officially begun. I hope summer will also include blueberry picking, jam making, and lots of gardening, including a new strategy to protect my delphinium from the slugs. And wonderful sunsets.
What rituals or events are the essence of summer for you?