Not deferential enough: The heartbreak of Maine summer

Posted Wednesday, June 29, 2011 in Opinion

Not deferential enough: The heartbreak of Maine summer

by Gina Hamilton

Close your eyes and picture what Maine summer is. If you're like most people, your mental postcard picture is a pleasantly warm but not hot day with blue skies dotted with wispy clouds, canoes gliding across a lake of glass, or a sailboat plying a gentle cove. Children romp on clean beaches or build birdhouses at one of a thousand summer camps. Trees rustle above you, the earth is cool and spongy under a hiker's foot. It's safe to build a campfire, and the wood is dry enough to do it.

If you live here, you can fix the roof any old day, hang laundry out to dry, sit on the porch or deck with a cup of tea or glass of lemonade, mow the lawn in the early morning and still have plenty of time to take the kayak out or do some fishing, and be home in time to fire up the barbecue.

Right. So what is so dramatically wrong with the Maine summer picture that really exists before our open eyes? And it's not just this year. Last year was abnormally hot – glorious, it is true, but not normal. The year before – well, we will draw a veil over the disaster that was the summer of 2009, with the late blighted tomatoes and fruit, black spotted maples, and rain every single blessed weekend.

Depending on whom you ask, the ping-pong weather in the summer is either a natural variation or a sure sign of global warming.

Our ping-pong winters, likewise.

Last weekend, I bravely dashed out to the farmer's market in the rain with Rudie the Dog to get some tomatoes (still greenhouse, but worlds better than the plastic ones you can get in the supermarket) and some strawberries from one of the local farms in Dresden. Rudie got her regular cookie – the stall owner gave it to her because it was broken, and he had been saving it for her in a plastic bag; he had more faith in my willingness to go out in the thunderstorm than I did. At the last minute, I also bought a bunch of sunflowers as a talisman. Even though the rain still didn't let up until Monday, the sight of the bright yellow flowers made me willing to go on with life over the weekend.

Almost everyone is trying to be philosophical about things. "The plants needed the rain," my neighbor Peesh said. Not this much rain, I thought. 

We went from rain to mud/mosquitoes, and back to blazing heat. Now the grass is ankle high again, and will need some serious trimming before we lose Rudie's toys in the grass and end up running them over, spraying bits of plastic boat or cuddly soft baby all over the yard.  

And yet it's almost Too Hot to do such mundane yard work.

It almost seems unfair. Summer in Maine lasts just a few months, and we count on each and every one of those days to build up the emotional stamina to make it through seven months of winter. Let's hope things even out soon. While the visitors will just have a less than perfect vacation, we who live here are like little solar cells, storing up mental energy during the summer for the long cold months ahead.

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