In the Event of a Loss of Summer. . .

Epimedium is one of my garden’s early risers. It will be sleeping late this year.

My mind has been drifting towards spring, as there is little left to say about this winter (snowy, freezing, and pot-hole making about sums it up); we need more words like we need more snow. Even the meteorologists agree, as the 7 day forecast blurbs are shrinking. How many different ways can you say “Cold and below normal”? They should start writing: “Ditto, see above.”

CT potholes03.jpg
Michael calls this “Pothole Porn”

I had been looking forward to March 15th, which, according to file photos, is about when my garden starts to stir. I eagerly pull back the blankets of last year’s wet, musty leaves, and scratch around to find the early risers. This inevitably leads to collateral damage—sort of like opening the oven before the cake is done. Still, it’s worth it to be assured that, in the words of Frog to Toad, “spring is around the corner.”


According to recent (terse) prognostications, the ground might still be frozen by mid-March,  but I have been keeping my chin up. Perhaps the long, undisturbed beauty sleep will yield a spectacular spring show . I have more time to knock off in-door projects. The steady temps and persistent snowpack intensify awareness of seasonal changes:  more chattering birds, swelling lilac buds, earlier sunrises, shorter shadows. This Narnian winter can’t last forever.

Hurry up, Aslan!

Hurry up, Aslan!

But recently a friend got me shivering in my salt encrusted boots with an article about how the prodigious ice cover on the Great Lakes might produce a cold summer. No!!!!!! I grew up with “cooler by the lake.” I know too well the strong east winds that rake waves of bitter chill over the city.

Credit: NASA (and Canada)
Credit: NASA (and Canada)

Some folks relish the idea of “pleasant, spring-like conditions” in July. F*ck that. My tolerance of winter rests on the promise of mid-summer swelter. Sure, I could move, but my roots here are deep, I do love the seasons, and Chicago seems—so far—decently situated for global weirding. A mild summer is nothing compared to wild fires, sinking shorelines, and dwindling water supplies.

So I am turning my frown upside down and calling on the power of positive thinking. Here is my 4-pronged strategy for embracing (or just bracing) for a “lost summer.”* Please add your ideas!

Lower expectations:

  • As a lifelong Cubs fan, this should not be a problem. Enough said.

Gather provisions:

  • Half of my closet is devoted to winter. The rest is devoted to the 5 hottest, most glorious days of the year. It’s time to accept and prepare for the vast in between, perhaps with guidance from friends in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Stock up on firewood for backyard entertaining. When the temp dips below 75, it’s time to get out the blankets and huddle around the fire.
So many vintage sleeveless dresses, so few days to wear them.
So many vintage sleeveless dresses, so few days to wear them.

Adjust plans:

  • Spend more time at parks and less time at beaches? (Added benefit of keeping sand out of the house.)
  • Plant more lettuce and fewer tomatoes? I stink at growing tomatoes anyway, though I am partial to “This is the year!” optimism. See Cubs, above.

Look on the bright side:

  • Prolonged baking season.
  • Better sleep and running conditions. Even I don’t like sweaty sheets and bras.
  • Michael spared from installing our 3 window AC units.
  • Long blooming season?
  • More cheerfulness? I am in the tropical climate loving minority. Steamy weather makes many Chicagoans as, if not more, cranky than polar vortexes.
  • More to write about!
Karen gave us this fragrant long blooming rambling rose. I bet it would enjoy a cool summer.
Karen gave us this fragrant long blooming rambling rose. I bet it would enjoy a cool summer.

Lately, I have been disclaiming weather related commentary with “This is not a complaint.” The last few months have not been so bad, in large part to years of small investments in winter armor, and that Michael put plastic on the rattling north facing windows. There has been much sun, sledding, and snuggling. But the Polar Vortex-y Winter of 2013-14 has been notable, which makes for easier writing. It has been a muse to many, and at the rate we are going, I suspect the words will keep piling up—except perhaps on the 7 day forecasts.

Snowboarding at Mt. Humboldt.
Snowboarding at Mt. Humboldt.

For a real lost summer, look back to 1816. Yikes!

4 thoughts on “In the Event of a Loss of Summer. . .

  1. No, Gin, no. I will not accept the prospect of a cool summer with look on the bright side optimism. If this summer is cold like last summer, I will complain bitterly every day. If we must suffer, we at least get to complain. We earned it.

  2. “My tolerance of winter rests on the promise of mid-summer swelter.” Precisely. This is the deal, this is the agreement we have with the weather gods: we will live here and suffer through this cold because we know that hot and sweaty days will arrive, and we will get fed up with them, and yearn eventually for colder days, just as now we are yearning for those insufferably hot nights. Mmmm, hot nights where the air is so full of humidity, so close, that we can hardly breathe, and we’re sweaty, and even after a shower we’re sweaty. O for those days of sweat and moving slowly and being able to sit without every muscle tensed against the cold. Someday soon, please.

  3. Thanks for reminding me of what it’s like to actually have seasons. Since there is really just 1 season here in Ecuador (and not worth writing about) , I have used the inspiration of our own “Vortex” (Volcano Tungurahua) for similar writing. Anyway, this is very well written. Especially the part where your garden “starts to stir.” And the photo of Miguelito hammering the croquet post is beautiful. Keep it up!

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