There is something about summer that makes it feel like time has stopped, or at least suspended itself in a protest. On these early summer nights, we can argue it is still light out at 10 o’clock. On the other end of that rotation, insomniacs can wake to the gloam of solstice light at 4 a.m., a fine mist and birdsong already paving the way to dawn.
Summer hangs in the air like pollen.
Time does not really stop, though, and in fact we do much more. Come November, it’s so dark and gray I’m ready for bed by 7. Early July, we eat lunch at seven7 and then go for a bike ride or mow or garden. With all this time we actually do too much. Work, shop, run, bike, hike, gym, yardwork, plant the tomatoes, wash the car, mow, dig, water, go to the beach.
Kids have camp and work and friend-dates and sleepovers. Older kids just want the car.
It’s also true that driving in the summer is easier. Roads grip, light helps. Windows down, radio blaring, arm hanging out the window is a throwback to a freer time in America. At least it feels that way.
Summer is like driving a forest-green ’72 Ford F-150 with a sandbag ashtray on the dash, a Chesterfield burning to a long ash hanging off your steering hand, AM radio blaring young rock ’n’ roll, a Budweiser pounder in a cooler on the bench seat, ready when needed. And that used to be legal. Don’t try this at home.
But summer is also a time to work on the roads, and there’s a fair bit of that happening. That slows us to a crawl. You want out of the 1972 F-150 then and into the Q-7 with the AC on max.
I wonder: If I am stopped in a long-line of cars in front of a rail-thin man or woman dressed head to toe in Day-Glo orange or yellow, who is working a cigarette or a cup of coffee, holding a “stop/slow” sign like it’s the last straw, avoiding eye contact at all costs, is it OK for me to check email or make a handheld call? Or is this still “driving”? It sure doesn’t feel like driving.
The roadwork is relentless and annoying, but less for us than for the people doing it. Standing on asphalt all day in the sun. Dust to rival anything in “Lawrence of Arabia.” Having every other driver either curse you or try to engage you in banal conversation (couldn’t really say which is worse). Worrying for your life with the Suburbans racing by you as though the cones and gravel were a barrel race rather than a work zone. Moving dirt from one pile to another. Digging dirt up or tamping it down or laying tar on it. Damn.
Here in the heart of Stowe, Percy’s team and others have been laying sidewalk and digging trenches and filling in trenches on Main Street forever. The weather did not support this operation, as it is pretty hard to dig liquid dirt — or to tamp it down.
Just after Memorial Day, I watched Percy’s crews work like machines to get the sidewalks in the village somewhat ready for the holiday hordes, ignoring the rain, the drivers, the time of day. Nothing whimsical about summer to those crews.
And the teams are out everywhere. Like Little League, roadwork in Vermont has a short, relentless season. Lots to do in not a lot of time at a time when the roads are fullest. I wonder if any of our world-class microbrews offers a deal to Vermont’s world-class road-crews.
Aside from the roads, you can see the bustle of physical work everywhere. Whether haying or planting corn or landscaping or logging or building, crews are out in force. I pulled over to talk to one team laying strips of black plastic on a field. Usually the field is planted in seed corn or allowed to go fallow. I wondered what they were experimenting with. Hemp, it turns out.
A crop to get a bit more value from the rocky soil of Vermont is a good thing. I’d rather see more rye and barley myself, but anything to help farmers find a way to keep the land working and not just be open brush is good in my book.
I can’t say summer is my favorite season. I’m not a fan of mosquitos or deer flies. The woods are easier to move through in winter on lightweight touring gear. It’s a lot more work to mow grass than it is to shovel snow. It’s easier to stay warm in winter than cool during the dog days of summer. OK, ridiculous whining.
Much about summer just can’t be matched. The good just outweighs the nitpicking.
Cooking outside at 10 at night on a wood fire. Sitting on a hill watching otherworldly thunderheads roll across the mountains, their tops peeling back in strong, jet-stream winds, lightning punctuating the majesty of the view.
When the sunlight finally fades to near darkness, the fireflies offer a show. Bears sneak down for some much-welcomed food. And then there are all the celebrations of the Fourth of July, from folding-chair marches to Warren’s irrepressible parade to fly-bys to fireworks to rodeos to cheeseburgers. It’s pretty hard to complain.
Finally, there is baseball. It is a game to listen to. In the backyard while cooking dinner. In the truck while barreling home. On a hammock on a hot Sunday. One-hundred-sixty-two games and it is not enough.
There is nothing like Joe Castiglione telling you about the happenings at Fenway Park, helping suspend everything else in the light and heat of an early summer night. And it doesn’t even matter that the Sox aren’t winning. Drive on, summer.
David M. Rocchio lives, works and writes in Stowe. Email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.