As seasons go, summer’s the toughest. Every other day I’m ready to give up the ghost, to say uncle, to toss in the towel. Then I remember the concept of moving air.
I turn my thermostat to 86, eliminating the incessant noise of the air conditioning unit, something I cannot bear - in the next house I redo, the unit will be far, far away from the bedroom or the living quarters; it will be seriously insulated.
I dig out the table fans I’ve accumulated through years of yard sales, find a handful of Q-tips or old tooth brushes, tediously and fiercely wipe the winter dust and last year’s summer grime from the blades and settle in for some good old-fashioned, in-your-face, rotating oscillation.
Then I free my shoulders. Why don’t I think of this sooner? It’s a body image thing, I guess. Upper arms, bare arms, flabby arms. Well, forget that.
Look for the tank-tops (make a note: store the tank-tops next to the table fans). Change to the tank-tops. And try not to call them wife-beaters.
Then, when someone calls you to meet them at Desposito’s for shrimp and a few beers, find a second wind - think of getting off the couch and out into the day as a good excuse to say, “I am risen!” - and go.
Even though you don’t think you could possibly find the energy to put on clothes, let alone leave the house again that day.
It’s a faith thing, really. In your home it’s hard to remember life on the edge of the marsh, the coast, the shore, where there’s always a breeze, a show of clouds you don’t expect, an unexpected smell of fecundity you won’t find in town. But it’s there.
There’s always something equally distracting. The other night it was a boat in the distance, a fishing boat, one of those double-deckers that sit high in the water. Only this time it was grounded in the bog, stranded on the bottom land, helpless and defenseless, looking kind of embarrassed at its awkward position, waiting for the tide to change, waiting for a hitch into shore.
After dinner, which always costs more than we expect or remember but at this point, mellow and proud of beating back our inertia, who can care about a few extra bucks because places such as Despositos - the real deal - are few and hard to find, after dinner we drift outside, lean against the railing of the pier and resume our staring at the abandoned boat, still askew, still crooked.
That’s when we get the story. Something unfortunate (I prefer to think untoward) happened to the mechanics of the boat’s steering wheel. The same person told us the price tag of the boat: $325,000, the price of a condo, we think, or of several trips to Prague, a summer home in Nova Scotia, a year-round residence on Lake Michigan in South Haven.
Then, because we are dazed from the day, the sun, a few beers, we back up and nick the taillight on someone’s very large truck. Taking the piece into the restaurant, we find the owner of the vehicle and explain what happened. He says don’t worry about it. Nice.
Finally, when someone inquires about the time, we realize how late it is, how light it is, and how good we feel.
In other parts of the country, summer is about gardening. Not here. In Savannah we pray for rain - in short supply this season - we deadhead marigolds, we harvest basil, we go for short-term goals, like clearing paths.
When I return to my garden after a month’s absence I untangle what seems like miles and miles of passion flower vines tenaciously wrapped around the fig tree, pull up a loosely-embedded weed shaped like a spider, harvest dozens of garlic heads, straighten up and secure the moonflower stake.
When I stop to stretch and watch the hens, I notice about six or eight light-green, oddly-shaped speckled gourds dangling from the discarded TV antenna I cemented into the ground last year, gourds that have traveled to the roof of the chicken coop. A total surprise easily missed in the first few rounds of the garden.
It’s a survival garden of nostalgic and old-fashioned Mexican sunflowers - tithonia to some - which pop up anywhere, willy-nilly; the independent banana trees, one of which is sprouting fruit; the undemanding and slightly exotic sugar cane; the fading but interesting persicaria; the prolific beach daisy; the neglected and blooming spider-lily; the crowded but blooming monarda; the productive trumpet flower, both the purple datura and salmon-colored brugmansia.
The screened-in porch is a great place to observe the garden., to watch the birds, to loose track of time with a book. This week, it’s Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, a winner.But here’s the irony. At the end of the day, the long, sticky, blistering, sultry, challenging day, the real trouble of summer is this: It’s too short.