Thursday, July 14, 2011
the thick air of summer
In Chicago, we are in the season known as "summer". I say that, because as I grew up, I knew summer as a time when being outside was like stepping into soup, and the only respite was the ever welcome presence of a pool, or a river, or better yet, an ocean.
This year, "summer" has had a few cool weeks, a few hot days, and recently, some absolutely gorgeous spring-time weather. (last night was 60, tonight is supposed to be 65). Of course, this is Chicago, where it is "winter" roughly 8 months out of the year. The trade-off is summers that are tremendous for being outside all day long - sitting in the heat of midday, and walking in the cool of evening.
But you don't come to this blog for a description of the weather. So here's a story:
I spent much of my teenage years at Assateague Island. We would go year-round - there was no time that was not a great time to be at the beach. In the winter, the bay was warming. In the summer, the ocean was respite for my boyhood dreams and visions - I would exhaust myself by swimming all day and then read all night. These days were filled with wonder and excitement.
When Kim and I got married, I was excited to take her to Assateague. We finally got an opportunity to go, when we were celebrating our 5 year anniversary. We had a great day, walking in the sand, swimming, and getting sunburned. In the evening, we were going to a Maryland style crab buffet - a family restaurant where they dump buckets of crabs on paper tablecloths, give you a shaker of Old Bay, and leave you alone.
We needed to shower prior to going to dinner, so we went to the "walk-in" campground (sites that are not accessible by car because they are deep into the dunes) and used the showers. Kim went first, and I stood outside. She heard me yelling and screaming to hurry up, and also heard me slapping myself as if I was a marauder that needed to be subdued at all cost. She quickly finished, and walked outside, to find me completely covered in mosquitoes. I would estimate that I got between 100-200 mosquito bites in a 5 minute time span. We started running chaotically, swatting at the sky as if the salt air itself was attacking.
Roughly 15 minutes later (as measured by frantic running), we were at the main bathouse. Kim went to shower, and I stood guard over our stuff. Small children would approach me with looks of terror, and then they would go running. Almost every adult that walked by said something like "What HAPPENED to you?"" Where were you?" and "will you be the subject of a new horror film I'm filming?"
It should be duly noted that the sunburn hadn't even set it yet. These comments were simply geared toward the pile of mosquito food my skin had become.
It was a great day. Kim and I both enjoyed the ocean, the sun, and REALLY enjoyed gorging ourselves on crab. This is what I remember summer as being: Air so thick you could cut it with a butter knife, but a time when all wounds can heal simply by watching the tide come in at the ocean.