FOR SUMMER ENTHUSIASTS, the countdown has begun: just five more days until the unofficial start of summer on Memorial Day.
This is the weekend when hopes soar and hearts warm in eager anticipation of a new season. Gardeners will flock to nurseries and greenhouses. Owners of summer cottages will sweep away cobwebs, air out rooms, and restock pantries. Shoppers will head to the mall to buy swimsuits, shorts, and sandals. Newspaper ads are promoting gas grills and patio furniture, camping gear and luxury vacation packages.
What fantasies these ads inspire as summer-lovers dream
of sunlit hours relaxing with friends, reading long-awaited books, cultivating bountiful gardens, and walking beaches or woodland trails.
But these fantasies are increasingly elusive. Summer now ranks as an endangered species of a season. Bracketed between Memorial Day
and Labor Day, its 99 fleeting days are made shorter by invisible thieves, subtly diminishing the season's glory.
These gremlins begin by stealing time precious golden hours through long workdays and "working vacations."
They also rob us of comfort. Across the country, Americans spend summer days shivering in over-air-conditioned offices, restaurants, and stores. Permanently closed windows block out bird songs and gentle breezes.
Summer also slips away as overzealous merchants start dressing mannequins in wools and wintry colors in July.
It all stands in sharp contrast to memories of childhood summers, when the season stretched endlessly. There was time to watch fireflies blink in the twilight. And time to watch Monarch butterflies emerge from pale-green cocoons.
The poet May Swenson captures the mood when she writes, "Can it be there was only one/summer that I was ten? It must/have been a long one then."