I’m not a fan of summer. Maybe it was the blistering sunburns, near-drownings, or the leeches on those family camping trips. Or maybe it’s just how freakin’ hot it gets. Those somewhat cool (in comparison, at least) days as summer officially began last week? Probably just a plot to lull us into complacency before August’s inferno.
But there are things about summer I enjoy. Lightning bugs (but not June bugs—those legs hurt). Homemade ice cream (chocolate, please!). Barbecues (pork or chicken, not too spicy, of course).
And words, of course. Did you forget who I am?
“Tump,” one of my all-time favorite words, always comes to mind because in the summer my brothers and I would help Nanny and Grandpa in the garden, which often involved tumping things (and sometimes siblings) out of the wheelbarrow. What country kid isn’t going to like that? Pulling potatoes and onions from the ground while making sure to shower everyone with that red clay (my brothers were always daring everyone to eat the potatoes raw, right out of the ground), shelling purple-hulled peas and waiting days for the color to wear off your hands, playing catch with squash (but not tomatoes … that’s just messy). Those were the kinds of things that always yelled summer to me. That and the sound of cicadas. And those things yell loudly.
🌳 🌳 🌳 🌳 🌳
The catalpa trees in the side yard of our church just across the road always bloomed about the time that school let out, so they always reminded me of summer and Vacation Bible School. Like “tump,” “catalpa” is fun to say … and I’ve never heard anyone say it without sounding Southern.
With blossoms that look somewhat like irises, orchids or foxgloves, it was one of my early favorite flowering trees. I’ll admit I also used the huge leaves and bean pods sometimes to smack my brothers (they deserved it). Those trees are long gone now, and I still miss them.
There would be weeks, sometimes months without rain in the summer when I was a kid, and the scent of the rain when it finally came was always something to look forward to: earthy and fresh at the same time (as opposed to the musty smell of continuous rain). Australian scientists in 1964 coined the word to describe this rain in the journal Nature: “petrichor.” Its roots are Greek (petra for stone and ichor for blood of the gods), but the word actually refers to an oil that is released by earth before the rain ever starts, thanks to the humidity in the air. Now, though, word nerds like me can evoke it for those drought-ending drizzles.
And pray for more of the same. Right now would be good.
We kids were expert summer lollygaggers when given our druthers. While it was fun working in the garden, it was more fun to do nothing productive whatsoever. Lollygagging is not only fun to say, it’s fun to do. Of course, when you’re in 4-H, there’s not as much time to lollygag since summer was (at least when I was a member) prime 4-H season … record books, regional competitions before the state competition at the Fayetteville UA campus before school started up again, preparing for the fair in the fall, etc. And yet we found time. We were kids. It might have been as simple as just reading under a tree (I had a favorite spot that was hidden unless you knew about it), but lollygagging it was.
Then there are the words I usually associate with summer, and not in a good way—sweltering, sweaty, humid, scorching, stifling, muggy, oppressive—just the sound of them makes me want to jump into an ice-cold bath. When you walk outside and your glasses instantly fog up, or you break out into a sweat as soon as you take a step, that’s just too hot.
“Sizzling” reminds me of one particular sunburned summer and the weeks it took for all that burned skin to peel away even though a bunch of leeches decided to help me out a bit. That was the last time I went on one of those camping trips, opting instead to stay with my grandma in Fort Smith, sometimes attending with my cousin what would be one of four Vacation Bible Schools I would attend. Most of my friends were Baptist and went to one of two local churches, as was my paternal grandma, so I, the Church of Christ kid, would hie to their church basements as well as my own. I don’t know why, but it always seemed the Baptist crafts were more fun. They don’t take away the sting of a bad sunburn, though.
But maybe “sizzling” isn’t all bad. It could also refer to bacon. I can hold a grudge against sunburns, but bacon? No, never. It’s not chocolate, but it’ll do.
As I write this, I’m delaying going outside to water because the heat and humidity are making me feel like I’m about 20 pounds heavier. Instead, I’m dreaming of autumn. Falling leaves, the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg in the air, apples, and cool temperatures. It’s one of the best times to go on a nature hike with your camera, or just to get some fresh air.
For a word nerd like me, fall is full of evocative wordy goodness. Crisp: the feel of the air with just a bit of chill, the crunch of an apple as you bite into it, and the sound of dried leaves underfoot … or the crust of apple cobbler. Eerie: the atmosphere at dusk, and the feeling of being alone in the quiet of the woods (I like it!). Aromatic: pumpkin spice, burning leaves, and apples and cinnamon. Harvest: hay rides, corn-shuck dolls, and pumpkin bowling or tossing. Misty: Cool mornings with light fog or just a touch of frost. Moonlit: Quiet evenings punctuated by the dappled light of the moon, perhaps accompanied by a few howls (werewolves, maybe?).
It’s all good, and I can’t wait. But first I have to make it through a long hot summer. Wish me luck.
Till fall I’ll remember not to sweat petty things, or pet sweaty things. Especially when they’re the same thing. You know who I’m talking about, and there is no amount you could pay me to pet that.