Sunday, May 4, 2014

What Makes a Day Summer?

Hot afternoons, nearly empty paths

Somewhere between now and the summer solstice, it begins. Not talking about the official starting line, but rather the sense, the understanding, the feeling of it. How can you tell, around here?

Shade, water, bicycle

Some things hint at it. The sun streams in my window earlier and earlier, until it wakes me (and the neighborhood birds) before my alarm.

Certainly the rising heat. Afternoons approaching one hundred eff. Blazing sunshine out of a cloudless sky against single-digit humidity. Turning on the AC. Rising levels of dehydration during rides. More bottles of water required. More sunscreen needed. Thoughts of any clothing beyond the lightest, coolest, more comfortable, long gone. Caps with brims, sunglasses, avoidance of mid-day and scuttling from shade island to shade island on foot.

Still together, but decreasing in number as they increase in size

The duck families still trying to make a living in the canals. Attrition has decreased their numbers, down from the dozen babies gamely paddling against the current, down to a hardy handful who have escaped the predators and other aggressors who would take them.

People not from this area or neighborhood asking about the bats around sunset. Excuse me, do you know where the bats roost? Yes, yes I do. But I'm not sure if they're back yet, or even if they'll be coming this year. Since I just read Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction, I am hoping they return in large numbers, hoping they fly out every night to skim the canals for insect meals, but I have doubts and fears about that, now. Now whenever I see bats, or hear frogs croaking in the night, my heart skips a beat, and I wonder if it will be the last time.

Added the Crane bell from the parts box, for making music with cicadas

Surely by the time the cicadas sing it's summer, but that is some time away from now. Haven't seen them yet, haven't heard from them  yet. So what is it? What makes a day summer?

I can feel it in the late afternoons, around the hottest time of day. By agreement, by consensus, people begin to not ride their bicycles when it is perceived to be too hot out. It's a pretty sharp dividing line, when afternoons of springtime joy exuberant riding transition to too-hot-to-ride-now perception. People stay in, to watch TV, or to go shopping, or whatever, and quite suddenly, the trails, the paths, the streets are nearly empty of bicycles at that hour.

That's exactly when the summer fever hits me, though. Time to acclimate. Time to think about carrying two water bottles, work on the homemade electrolyte mixture, ensure sufficient supplies of good sports-oriented sunscreen are secured. The sweat beanie under the helmet is already a winning addition to the summer gear list. The summer songs are starting to go through my head out there. I think it's here. It certainly feels like it.


  1. This is the "good" time of summer, though. Once that single-digit humidity increases, those are the real dog days.

  2. We are still waiting for real spring but this sounds so familiar. I love summer.

  3. I'm remembering that as a kid, summer seemed absolute and monolithic, a singular stretch of time during the year distinct and better than the rest. Now, with a wider view, I know that summer is a fluid concept on this globe, never the same at the same moment in two different places, all relative to both global location and local specifics. But I think we could all agree on this: summer is when school is out.

  4. What do you use for a sweat beanie? I live in Michigan, so not nearly as hot as Arizona, but we have a lot of humidity, so sweat doesn't evaporate and drips down into my eyes and stings. I've got a neoprene headband with a rubber strip to help direct it away from my face (forgot the name), but I'm always on the lookout for other solutions. P.S. I've got an XXL (7-7/8) head, so fit can be an issue.

    1. Jim, I got a SweatVac Ventilator Cap which fits my giant head comfortably, and prevents sweat from damming up in and behind the helmet pads until the dam breaks and sweat pours into my eyes. Under a well ventilated helmet, the SweatVac seems to present sufficient surface area to manage sweat well. This is in the extremely low humidity of Phoenix late-spring, mind you. I haven't tried it in damper conditions yet.


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