Hot. Finally hot in Vermont. It comes after what Steinbeck didn’t but might have called the “spring of our discontent,” a plodding, reluctant spring that seemed to be spring in name only — an April and May, and early June, when the weather gods seemed too dull-witted to pair warmth with clear skies, so that our warmest days were constantly overcast or raining, while our clearest, sunniest days stayed stubbornly blustery and cool, when all we asked for was the comforting embrace of sunshine lingering on our arms, our shoulders, our faces, without being blown away by insistent, persistent breezes. After this prolonged trial by intemperate, constantly disappointing weather, we finally had an actual summer-like weekend here at the cusp of mid-June. The afternoon temperatures on Saturday and Sunday started with an 8, not a 7 (sevens are good, but even they have been rare), or a 6 (most days, about the best we could hope for), or a 5. Or worse.
Was it later arriving than usual, this luxurious weather with its low-80s readings? The meteorologists can answer yes or no. However, weather is experiential. Whether temperatures were truly lower than normal as we awaited an elusive spring, whether rains in fact persisted as relentlessly day after day as they seemed to… these are statistical matters. Another truth, as certain as tables and graphs, is that when Vermonters have encountered each other these past weeks and month they have commiserated, once the pleasantries were out of the way, about the lingering dreariness that surrounded us.
And then came the weekend — this past weekend, to be exact. Hot sun, still air. And the baked-in greenness that takes over as the apple blossoms and crab apples lose their early white and pink hues and start to conform to the dominant shade of the landscape. The lilacs and rhododendrons persist a little longer, and later-blooming plants and bushes will usher us through the stages of summer. But now is the time of green reasserting itself as Vermont’s true color, and we welcome it, not only for its beauty, but for the respite it provides from the more problematic seasons that dominate the Vermont experience.
And, as summer settles in once again, another feature of this season — always slightly surprising — is how quiet summer is. There are lawn mowers, of course, and periodically, in town, village, or country road, motorcycles shatter the air with a horrendous roaring like a giant, sonic middle finger waved at all who treasure tranquility. Otherwise, though, in the heat of the afternoon, hardly a bird chirp breaks the stillness, and butterflies, whose passage makes no sound, flutter by in fitful splashes of color.
Downtown, on a hot summer’s weekend, it’s about the awnings. People gather beneath them to visit, sip a beverage, or idle an hour away. They are like oases in a desert, the sidewalks like the forbidding sand, almost devoid of people save those purposely en route to a known destination. There’s a joy on a hot summer weekend that seems most fully savored not in boisterousness but in serenity, and it finally settled upon us, after a too-long wait, in these early-middle days of June.
We know that this, too, is a passage. For one thing, we’ll get used to it. Summer days will become heavy with their heat, and we’ll retreat to air-conditioned places; we’ll strap our kayaks atop our cars and load our boats upon their trailers, and find watery places to escape from the very weather we’ve been hankering for. The Fourth of July will come, noisily, and fireworks; later, July’s haze will dissolve into August’s astonishing clarity, and the first golden, red and orange leaves will appear on isolated branches, lingering as forewarnings until gradually the branches around them change and conform. Even then, the warmth will stay with us, at least for a little while.
We’ve earned these splendid days that we’ve just begun to experience. We know, particularly in Vermont, that their number will be distressingly finite, and we know what will follow them.
For now, though, here’s to a quiet hour spent on the porch with a ballgame or a book (or a newspaper); to time passed gainfully in the garden beneath the protection of a sunhat; to nights with the windows open for fresh air and morning’s birdsong; to the kind of relaxing that can only happen when the weather is easy on us.
Here’s to summer. It has finally arrived.