Summer in the South

Summer in Florida is the season that comes earliest and stays the longest. Beach days in January are common, even if they come after a night of hard freezing or heavy frost. Deluges between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon are to be expected on a daily basis. Floridians know the difference between a cumulus cloud and a cumulonimbus cloud.  Hurricane evacuation plans consist of visiting family and friends up north and finding out which of your neighbors own chainsaws.

We don’t see a lot of fireflies. Mosquitoes take over. The dolphins, manatees, and right whales return to the St. Johns River. Alligators fill their bellies with more food in the summertime than during any other time of the year. Then they lie around with their mouths open. They don’t do this to look any more menacing than they already are. They’re just hot.

The Spring Equinox only arrived last week, but already Florida has started showing signs of summer. Humidity has returned, birds’ nests are already emptying, and kids are wearing shorts to school once again. One recent day reported temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s, only to be cooled by a torrential afternoon thunderstorm.  That is how it works here. That is how we know it’s coming and that is how we know it’s here to stay, at least until late-October.

It’s funny how my childhood Halloween memories involve snowsuits and fitting costumes over that heavy bulk of warmth and fabric and here we are with Elle, a native Floridian, making sure her polyester cape doesn’t make her sweat to the point of dehydration.

As someone who lives on the Atlantic coast, I see the true sunrise. Exquisite as it is as its own part of the sun’s cycle, it impresses me most in the winter. It’s the warmer weather sunsets that really catch me off guard, every single time. For some reason, I am always surprised by how gorgeous the sky can be. If I really wanted to, I could watch the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean and drive to the west coast to watch the sun go down over the Gulf of Mexico.  It would only take me a few hours each way.

In fact, I think I would like to do this sometime.

While these shots hardly do a Florida sunset justice, it gives you an idea of the kind of closing of a day I get to see many nights during the year. On this particular night, just over the past weekend, I was sitting on the couch watching television. All the main lights were turned off so only a subtle glow came from the TV, that flickering, annoying twitch that commercials often use to catch a viewer’s attention. Except I noticed all of a sudden that my backyard had turned pink.

The white fence was pink, the trees were pink, the pink flowers were a completely new and undefined shade of more pink. It was quite pretty. I scanned the sky and noticed the shades of pink coming from behind my trees and over to the neighbor’s backyard. The peak of his roof sliced through right where the pink ended and a normal sky continued. Over there, the sky just looked meh…but I got the best view.

Welcome back, summer. I don’t care that you are coming a little early this year.

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Summer in the South
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The oriole sings in the greening grove
As if he were half-way waiting,
The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
Timid and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
And the nights smell warm and piney,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
And the woods run mad with riot.

And, again, while it might still be spring to most of the rest of the country, I am eagerly awaiting summer’s official return. To me, summer is already here.

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About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
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