We are now in the midst of that glorious three-week period when the days are longest – and for another ten days, they will be growing longer still – and we can watch the sunset hours after finishing dinner. And while Key West’s Mallory Square takes justifiable pride in the phosphorescent beauty of the sun slipping beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, I will always prefer watching the sun slide behind the Adirondacks from almost anywhere along Vermont’s Lake Champlain shoreline. I may have that classic male, red-green color blindness, but even I can appreciate the shades of electric terra-cotta, lustrous melon, and Day-Glo aubergine that are brushed across the horizon and distant New York state ridgeline at sunset.
Summer is clearly my favorite season here in the Green Mountains, and in June it stretches out before us like a rainbow. For my friends who are farmers, these longer days mean longer hours. But for me? By now the heavy lifting (and I use that term with my tongue firmly in my cheek) of planting the vegetable garden is behind me. My wife and I have the flower gardens more or less under control. Yes, I’ll stack some wood and throw some paint (badly) on one wall or another of the house or the barn, but now it’s time to savor the season.
Just for the record, I do enjoy painting the house or the barn. It offers instant gratification and unlike most home improvements, it doesn’t involve measuring, plumbing, or a table saw. In other words, even I can’t screw it up. I also find stacking wood incredibly relaxing and therapeutic. I like that chore, too. Make no mistake: I don’t like stacking wood enough to stack yours. Sorry. But a cord of wood and a ballgame on the radio? Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon
Taking advantage of the coming months is especially important here in Vermont. Summer is priceless in northern New England precisely because it can be so very short – even, of course, in a world being transformed before our eyes by global climate change. I have seen it snow on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend here in Lincoln. I have seen killing frosts in early September.
And yet its brevity makes it all the more precious. Not counting this afternoon, we have twelve weekends between now and Labor Day. That number is big when you’re talking donuts, but even bakers throw in a thirteenth; it’s small when we conjure in our minds all of the things we were looking forward to doing this summer back in February or early March, when the world was starting to unlock and we were being teased by the first thaws and glimpses of spring.
How quickly can July and August disappear? There have been summers when travel and rain and the speed with which even the longest days pass have conspired to keep me from spending an afternoon at Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh. Or hiking to the top of Mount Abraham. Or wandering aimlessly through the buildings and exhibits that comprise the Shelburne Museum.
Or – given my love of baseball – taking in a Lake Monsters game at Centennial Field. (Note to self: Opening day is June 18, a week from Monday.)
I’m not proud of this admission. But I also know that I’m not alone. I have had far too many conversations over Labor Day Weekend that have begun with someone saying to me something along the lines of, “Where did the summer go? I never even put a toe in Lake Champlain.”
So, while the summer is still young, mark your calendars. Plan ahead. Get to the lake (you know which one I mean) and watch the sunset. Before you know it, you will be caulking windows for the winter and wondering how in the world it got to be Halloween.