During one of those periods when I was trying to be creative, I tried to summarize the seasons on how it makes us feel. Nearly all of it seemed cliche.
Spring was the time of hope. That period where you feel reborn, reawaken, and drawn out from the darkness of cold to warmth, light, and happiness.
Winter created that cold veil over you, challenging your ability to survive with cold, wet, and dry. Making you hide away from the world until such time you can break away from it all.
Autumn was Packer Season.
Summer, however, was a tough one for me to pin.
I try to use my experience and memories to help define it, and I have to fight through a mix of conditions – but what seems to be consistent is that I don’t contribute any of it to “summer”. Summer is just when it happened. The last week, though, I started realizing the reason why.
Sometime after I returned to the East Coast, and shortly before I started traveling around New England for work constantly, my heating/cooling unit went out on me (which makes sense, because it’s only a year old, those things go out every year don’t they?). Thermostat works, signal seems to go to the system, and I don’t think it’s the compressor because I can’t get the heat to kick on either. Probably with an hour long service, it can get cleared up. But that means I have to have a predictable enough schedule to be sure I am in Dorchester on a specific day – and nearly a month & a half later, that hasn’t happened. For the last two weeks, temps have been consistently in the 80s and low 90s. Luckily, the house get nearly no direct sunlight, and the evening ocean breezes keep the unit cool until late afternoon — and by that time I have the pup sucking on doggie ice creams. Plus, with all this work around the area to do, we are spending most of our time in hotels anyway.
The condition in the house is similar to what I had to deal with in my old house in Kansas. That ancient cooling system trying to cool a 1600 sq ft house built in 1910 with more holes in it than the plot of a summer blockbuster couldn’t handle keeping itself up during the consistent triple digit heat. Even after putting up with that for 5 years, and finally get well needed service, it still barely made the inside feel a little better than the outside.
It’s not the heat of the day that gets you in those times, it’s the nights. In Kansas, the open expanses of farmland baked in the daytime, and as the sun set the winds began to blow bringing all of that heat in the air across the land. It wasn’t out of the question for the hottest time of day to be 7 or 8 at night; and by morning things hadn’t improved much. Plus of course the sun is up later, and rises earlier, meaning you have less of the dark to trick your body into resting. Trying to sleep in that meant keeping the windows open, and the sheets balled around your feet hoping at some point you will get to use them again. Hum of fans blowing, or the crackle of ice melting in a glass by the bed is sounds you now notice. Sleep. That … that really didn’t happen though, did it. How much did it seem like on hot summer nights that you found the roads more filled, the downtowns more common, but the people no more alive.
All that heat weakens you, drains your strength, drains your mind. You shower, you sweat, it dries, and a film cakes onto you constantly present until the cycle repeats .. if it repeats. The heat challenges you to find something to make you forget. It makes you learn to love the things that stop your dreaming. In a world where will power is about saying ‘no’ a thousand times, summer makes you say ‘yes’ that once that makes all the roads begin to change. Elvis sang about nights like that in the ghetto. Meatloaf left those nights praying for the end of time. Literary anti-heros for generations emerged through those summers with blood on their hands, and regret in their minds. If winter is a survival battle of man vs. nature; summer pits him against himself but he hot summer nights speak in his ear like the Devil asking for his due.
Years from now when this old life isn’t ambling anymore, I am going to look back at my summers in Dorchester with a strange curiosity. Making it through summers like this with my world still intact will be challenge, but I can look out the windows and see how I can be inspired to overcome. Out the back, where i can literally see the back porches of nearly 30 residences I can see how some have made their homes there rather than the stale indoors. Summery linens cover wicker couches and chairs, lamps illuminate the area, laptops out to watch videos or books open to read, all letting the evening air to overcome. One neighbor has taken to practicing her singing: a guitar, a bottle of beer, and her best attempts to find the right key while letting her voice ring out over an entire street. Kids no longer play in the streets, too hot for that, bu they sit out on the steps and let their sodas fill their gullets.
Like I said, my good memories about summer seems to be more about what you do. Yet the nights I can attribute to summer, those hot summer nights, it’s trying to keep yourself from doing something you regret that fills my memories. Trying to just let you do nothing. That seems to define summers now.