Al Batt: Grappling with complexities of 365 seasons annually

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2021

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

The chill is gone.

Summer begins when the last snowman melts.

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It can’t be summer already. Summer was just here. We’re finding our way back to things. It helps if the weather is a little better than just OK — lovely green and blue days with grasses swaying in the gentle breeze. Those days cause me to consider E. B. White who wrote, “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

Rod Serling said, “You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone.” Serling might have been talking about summer. Let the sweating begin. Suntan lotion? We need BBQ sauce. We shudder at sunburns we could pop popcorn on. Satan called, he wants his weather back. “Never stand in the sun when you can sit in the shade,” passes as wisdom.

I grew up without air conditioning, but with a rusty box fan. I put that fan in my upstairs bedroom window in accordance with the outside temperature. I pointed it outward so the fan pushed rising warm air out when the outside air was cooler than the air inside; otherwise, I wanted the fan blowing directly at me to aid evaporation of perspiration. Your experience may differ.

Russell Baker wrote, “Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

Summer is a time for dillydallying. Some people prefer to dilly, others to dally.

Weather predicting is more difficult than herding cats. Perfect weather isn’t. We take what we get. It’s a dry summer when the lake needs watering. I favor cooler weather over hot, humid weather because I’m not a corn plant. I feel that way despite having my best effort in the 100-yard dash on a hot day. I completed 67 yards.

Summer is when it becomes safe to drive by a high school parking lot. It’s when I wonder why they didn’t cover potholes in driver’s training, I graze on watermelon and sweet corn, radish sandwiches make me drool, people don’t move much faster than not at all, and thunderstorms have lightning with legs. Noisy kids, construction sites, roadwork and lawn mowers abound. My favorite summer quote is by James Dent, “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” My cousin thinks he’s a lawn mower. The neighbor just returned him. Mowing the lawn is an excuse for people who don’t golf to wear ugly clothing.

Summer is a time to yell at insects. I pick raspberries because I love to eat raspberries. I avoid making eye contact, but mosquitoes pick on me because they have to eat, too. It’s impossible not to be one with nature around mosquitoes. A mosquito bite is a direct interaction with the world and the skeeters offer biting commentary. Mosquitoes are popular. People clap for them. Someone will say, “I don’t remember the mosquitoes ever being so bad.” That person will be right. Someone else will say, “The mosquitoes aren’t bad this year. That person will be right, too. With apologies to David Farragut, “Damn the mosquitoes, full speed ahead.”

Pendulous oriole nests look like dirty gym socks hanging from trees. You might live where green frogs call. You might not. They create a sound like the pluck of a loose banjo string, “plunk.”

Butterflies dance in the breeze. Butterflies give wings to flowers. Thanks to flowers, I can smell colors. Caterpillars get off the no-fly list. Monarch caterpillars spend their lives eating and growing 2,000 times larger in 9 to 14 days. We see the exoskeletons of escaped cicadas that should be considered winged and sonorous. Snowstorms of moths surround lights on ballfields, but it’s not summer until the crickets sing.

Summer is a pearl in an unshucked oyster and doesn’t end until we’re given a certificate of participation — a snow shovel. Summer just gets here when it begins to leave. Groucho Marx as Captain Spaulding, in “Animal Crackers” sang, “Hello, I must be going, I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going. I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going.”

A cheering note to carry with you. The hotter the summer, the colder the following winter.


Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.