- Sonnet #18, William Shakespeare
I am a hopeless romantic when it comes to summer. Coles Phillips' "Fade Away Girl", bookended by her Edwardian beaus, appeals to my fancy as completely as their own. Who knew that the sirens of my great-grandmother's era could be so bewitching? Never mind that their impractical bathing attire was heavy and scratched and trapped great clots of sand in uncomfortable places; it may be false advertising but the style of the thing is sweet seduction.
Summer's idyll is all white sand and blue water and straw bonnets and porch swings. It is lemonade and salt-water taffy, the smell of cut grass and the tinkle of wind chimes. Ticks and mosquitoes need not mar this reverie, nor the modern world intrude with the drone of suburban mowers.
Those sails on the horizon are not pleasure boats, but pirates. NC Wyeth's tumescent clouds become giants on the strand. A quixotic lens reveals another world; the golden sun swirls like dandelion wine in the glass. Dreams of paradise break the surface like trout and dip again beneath the dappled water.
"And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask, and antique pageantry,
Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream."
- John Milton, A'llegro
Let us as the gods do,
'Tis the wiser part;
Leisure and love's pleasure
Seek the young in heart
Follow the old fashion,
Down into the street!
Down among the maidens,
And the dancing feet!
So short a day,
And life so quickly hasting
And in study wasting
Youth that would be gay!
-12 century Latin verse
Tell me that these are impossible dreams. Say that summers past were hardly such spun-sugar nostalgia, that this treacherous season is but a brief climax before autumn decay and winter death. Tell me that life is ruled by tooth and claw: "nasty, brutish and short". I know these things and I tell you that the ripened fruit is far sweeter for the knowledge that its season passes. Old hearts may be young again in summer, take flight on mended wings.
The gong rolls ominously above the shoal; shall we therefore fear to put to sea? Fog lurks on the banks, but the fish are there for the catching. Spring is the season of resurrection, but only in summer do we savor the fullness of life, its lurking dangers and certain end making it all the more precious and worth the risk. And though the coin of summer has another side beside the shining face it shows, not every shadow must be the shadow of death, nor every solitude be lonely.
"By the time it came to the edge of the Forest, the stream had grown-up, so that it was almost a river, and, being grown-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to when it was younger, but moved more slowly. For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "There is no hurry. We shall get there some day." But all the little streams higher up in the Forest went this way and that, quickly, eagerly, having so much to find out before it was too late. " - A.A. Milne , "Pooh sticks"