You probably didn’t notice, but the longest summertime of your life has begun. You noticed its beginning. But you didn’t stop to calculate its end. Who wants to think about when it’ll be over? It’s summertime!
Summertime gathers momentum in June with graduation parties and Father’s Day barbecues. It peaks at the 4th of July, which is followed by the longest stretch on the calendar without a single holiday. By August, we’re so relaxed, we don’t want the exertion that celebrating requires. If we were fields, in August we lay fallow. Or is it lie fallow? Come August, we won’t care. Then September arrives, but gently. Labor Day marks our final rest before an entire society sprints to the end of the calendar year.
Summer, as an astronomic event, takes one quarter of each year. Three months; thirteen weeks; a bit more than 90 days. But summertime is less mathematical and more poetic than summer itself. It steals a few days from May and a few from September to make its season fuller than the rest. It begins at the start of Memorial Day weekend, and ends after the Labor Day picnics have concluded.
This year, Memorial Day came as early as it could. June 1 was a Monday, so that pushed the May holiday to its earliest possible Monday. The three-day weekend began this year on May 23.
Likewise, the last day of August is a Monday this year, stretching Labor Day to its latest possible date. So summertime won’t officially end until the mosquito repellant is washed off the kids on September 7.
The longest summertime of your life has begun. What will you do with it?
Here’s a suggestion. Stay put. You already live in the best place possible. Why journey to other places, just to be reminded of humidity and insects and traffic and bad air? There’s plenty to see in other places and most of us don’t get out enough. But the other three seasons offer ample opportunity to see what’s out there. Leaving Lane County in the summertime is like waiting for the movie to begin before leaving to get popcorn. Summertime is our main attraction. Enjoy it.
Seeing family and friends is foremost for many, and that’s where the traveling comes in. You’ve invited others to come visit here, but they’ve balked at the idea. Oregon seems so far away to them! This works to our advantage most of the time, and may it ever be so. But you want loved ones to feel welcome and comfortable here. So offer to give them your place while they visit. Swap roles and stay in a local hotel while they visit. They’ll be comfortable, and you’ll see how we look to outsiders.
There’s plenty to see nearby enough. You’ve been meaning to sample the Saturday morning delicacies at The Country Bakery on Peoria Road between here and Corvallis. You even fantasized that you could ride a bicycle out there and back, making the trip both carbon- and calorie-neutral. You already own one or two of Bill Sullivan’s Oregon hiking guides, but you’ve only done a couple of the easier or more familiar hikes. Do a variation of the atlas trick: thumb the pages and stop at random, then go to the place described on that page.
Or take a day off from work and live that day backwards. Watch a movie in the morning, then make a big breakfast. (This is how most of us spent our youngest Saturday mornings.) Then do some work you’ve been putting off, grab a quick lunch. Don’t catch up on e-mail or read the paper until the afternoon. Finish with a drink that’s warm and comforting, and you’ve had a backward day.
It’s summertime, so you can play this way, but don’t be surprised if you learn something new about how your regular days go, just by doing it all in reverse for once.
The extra summertime days should call us to do something extra. Or at least different. If time were money, a big bill just blew our way down the gutter of life. It should be spent on something we hadn’t considered necessary before it came our way.
Summertime in 2009 will last 108 days. Last year it was 100 days long, and next year it will be 98. What will you do with that extra week-plus? Don’t wait until August to decide, because you know you’ll decide then to do nothing at all.
Don Kahle (firstname.lastname@example.org) plans to spend every day until September in Oregon. He owns three of Bill Sullivan’s hiking books. He blogs and writes a weekly column.