Saturday, August 11, 2012

The promise of summer

I could just as well have entitled this post ’a taste of summer’. Either way, you’ll understand what I mean about fleeting glimpses of summer—those tantalizing warm sunny days that lead you to believe that real summer is right around the corner. But somehow real summer never materializes. That has been the summer experience in Oslo this year. Perhaps it is more correct to say that summer (as most of us define it—sunny and warm days) came and went in May, which had some wonderfully warm summer-like days (in fact, I wrote a post at that time called The Smells of Summer: May was followed by two months of gray skies and rain. Temperatures have hovered around sixty degrees Fahrenheit since then. Summer has been struggling futilely to return. And then, it happened. Today is a real summer day. Yesterday was also a real summer day. Tomorrow is predicted to be a real summer day. I’ll believe it when I see it. I trust nothing and no one, not the clear night sky of tonight, not the balmy night temperature, not the golden moon, not weather reporters, and least of all the newspapers that are constantly telling us that ‘summer is finally here’. No, it’s not (well maybe it will be for the rest of August—hope springs eternal. I’m not a pessimist). Real summer is what I just experienced for ten glorious days in New York. So hot (temperatures hovering around 90 degrees Fahrenheit) that it feels like the heat is rising up from the street pavements, so hot that you have to throw off the bed sheets at night, even though the ceiling fan is on (can’t run the air-conditioners 24/7—the electric bills would be out of sight). So hot that my friend’s terrace is too hot to walk on in my bare feet. So hot that you think about running through the sprinkler that is watering the plants that need the water more than we do. But I am not complaining. My friends complained about the heat. The New York media reported and complained about the heat. Not me. I savored every chance I got to soak in the sun’s warmth and the summer’s heat and humidity. I walked when others drove their air-conditioned cars, although I enjoyed the a/c too, don’t misunderstand me. I had my water bottle with me on my walks and sipped it when I got thirsty. I rested when I got tired. That’s what the heat forces you to do—slow down. You can do everything you normally do, just at a slower pace. And really, what’s wrong with that? I took the train into Manhattan from Irvington, and sat on the platform benches waiting for the train, breathing in the smell of the wooden platform and the tracks. I see what I never saw before, because now I am a tourist in my home state, and I get to appreciate what I took for granted before when I was younger and lived there. I never get over how beautiful New York State is during the summer months. It doesn’t matter if I am upstate (in Tarrytown, Cortlandt Manor, Albany, or Pine Bush) or in New York City. New York is a beautiful state; it has the Hudson River, the lovely Hudson River towns and estates that I have written about many times, lakes, lush green parks and forests, and abundant farmland. It also has the Catskill and Adirondack mountains; I have not spent much time hiking in them, but it’s on my bucket list. Once you get outside of the city, you come into contact with a myriad of insects—mosquitoes, spiders, flies, crickets, and cicadas. You hear the latter two in the evenings, especially. Do I get bitten by mosquitoes? Yes I do, and the bites are irritating enough so that I ended up buying Benadryl to alleviate the itching. Ticks have become a real problem in semi-rural and rural areas; I actually know several people who have had Lyme’s disease—hikers, golfers, and fishermen.

Back in Oslo. I hope for some continuous weeks of summer from now on. Why? So that the feeling of anxiety disappears, that nagging, slightly frantic feeling of wanting to pack a summer’s worth of experiences into one or two warm days, as though we have gotten a reprieve from prison and have to make the most of it. That feeling that you cannot waste a single warm day, because a real summer day wasted is a summer day gone forever. It has felt like that for some of us this summer. You make the best of it, you don’t complain, you live one day at a time, and you hope for better weather. But many Norwegians decided early on to abandon their country for warmer lands—and did so in droves. The charter trip companies made out like bandits this summer. Financially-struggling countries in southern Europe found themselves invaded by northern Europeans seeking sun and warmth. So it’s not just me who misses real summers. And I can remember real summers here in Oslo during the 1990s when I first moved here; the shift toward cooler, shorter and rainier summers has occurred during the past five to seven years. If this is what global warming is doing to our planet--changing weather patterns to this degree--then I can only wonder about what future summers will bring.   

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