Summer is my least favorite season. I am a ghostly pale person, I sweat easily, and I do not garden successfully. I am allergic to chlorine and can’t spend days by the pool without breaking out in hives, and I am not generally given to hiking, camping, kayaking or doing any of those other things that involve being outside, sweating, and getting burned. I complain a lot about the heat, which may explain why I often find myself alone in my air conditioned house drinking iced tea and reading.
Today, though, today it was 80 degrees after an interminable and bitterly cold winter. Stepping outside tentatively in my cotton skirt and flip flops, I was overwhelmed by sense memories, good ones, the kind that made me sit down on the peeling porch steps and savor them. As the hair at the back of my neck coiled inexorably into ringlets, and the warm air extended its seductive fingers to touch parts of me that have not been unwrapped in public for five months, it seemed that maybe I didn’t hate summer any more.
I remembered all of the Only Summer things, the Farmer’s Market on Sunday morning, bags full of vegetable love in the form of tiny Patty Pan squash, gritty zucchini, scallions with shining white bulbs, garlic scapes, baby eggplants, tiny and fiery Hmong peppers, and the tomatoes, oh Lord the tomatoes in their juicy, flashy glory. The fruit, too, cantaloupes, Honeydew, watermelons, and berries, nothing in a plastic box from California, strawberries that have a smell and can make strong men tremble as they offer up their sweet/tart essence. I think about cooking in my summer kitchen, window open, Janis and Jami through the speakers, a little buzzed, very happy, asking the world to “take another little piece of my heart, now baby” as I bless fresh mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes with a chiffonadeof basil and a drizzle of olive oil. I wonder why I love cooking most in summer, it seems backwards, I should cherish the heat and coziness when it’s cold outside but the truth, the truth is that I am happiest cooking the crispest, juiciest, most potent version of everything under the sun, in my flip flops, when the sun is heading out for the evening.
I do adore my flip flops, which I keep in a basket so that I can pick the right color and height for any occasion. I paint my toenails luscious colors in the summer: mango, azure, spring green, and the color of ripe strawberries. I wear skirts so light that they barely touch skin, tissue weight T-shirts, and sandals. It’s hot, and there’s a reason, I think, that “hot” is a synonym for “sexy;” it is totally sensual to be almost barrier-free in the warm, moist air, open to the universe without layers of coats, sweaters, boots and socks. There is a conspiracy of the elements to make me feel fully alive, to make my hair curl and grow wild and to give me a perpetual, dewy flush. Winter is about drawing inward and keeping warm, Fall is about brisk new beginnings, and spring is frail, pastel, and gentle. Summer is about opening out, pulsing with ripeness, full bloom, and the headiness of so many things alive at one time. It is intoxicating.
It’s not really summer; this was just a preview. Tomorrow it will cool down again, for a while, but it’s coming, another summer, in all it’s ripe and languid glory. Maybe this year, I’ll surrender, balance the discomfort of sweat against the ecstasy of a cool shower, and the mosquito bites against the thrill of sitting on the porch waiting for a thunderstorm to break the tension in the air. I think I’m going to like it, this time.