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Slow Season

Iím hanging round the airport.

Iím looking for the plane

Something sweet and sticky

Running down my hand.

Popsicle of love

Gimme, gimme, gimme one of those

Itís summertime, love.

Coconut delight

Honey, honey, honey, donít let go.

Itís summertime, love.

óDavid Byrne, ďPopsicleĒ

The peaches on the dining room table have ripened enough to drip their juice against the uncut honeydew melon in the green bowl.

A pitcher of sleepy yellow gladioli droops over a half-finished chess game and a cup of leftover coffee.

Thereís a laundry basket of unfolded whites on one of the chairs and, atop that, the portable phone, left behind when Linnea was summoned forth for a bike ride. On the bookcase, a bowl with the color and sheen of whole milk holds dried lavender. The fragrance drapes the air.

Upstairs in the study, the walls are half-painted the color of perfectly boiled shrimp. The floor is strewn with caulk guns, hardware, rough drafts, teacups and books. An unscrewed wall sconce leans forward as if it might strike up a conversation. My can of WD-40 sits on the desk hard by the black-leather pocket Bible.

The house is full of clutteróyogurt cartons in the upstairs bathroom, unsorted mail on the kitchen table, pillows spilling onto the floor from the beds, from the sofa. The backyard sprouts random patches of dandelions and raspberries in a democracy of flora few homeowners would abide.

But suddenly I donít care.

Itís summertime, love.

Keeping to a schedule and minding the clutter seem like banal pursuits. Especially when you can sit in the yard and watch sunlight lacquering the maple leaves and stippling their trunks.

And this is just the first day of the best heat.

The kids are home from school. My schedule is unclenching its fist hold on my soul. I can feel the Nissan slogan decomposing deep in my bones. At lastóI am Un-Driven.

Itís like discovering an alternate persona inside my own skin.

It wasnít always like this.

Though I canít even muster a game face about winter, I still manage a little trumped-up oohing-and-ahhing over autumn leaves and early crocuses.

But itís summertime I love.

And the more humid, the better.

Because whether I work at home or at my office, I canít escape the heatóand so Iíve learned that what heat does is disarm you, slow you down, rule out the workaholic option. Because itís just too hot to do too damn much.

So trying to either flee the heat or beat the heat is the wrong approach to the season.

Itís simply a myth that an air- conditioned office is a more humane working environment than a non-air-conditioned one. Just the opposite is the case.

Air-conditioning is simply the business cultureís version of the carrot-and-stick game. People who work in offices where the temperature is always cold enough to perpetuate the marketing of J. Crew sweaters believe they are being kept at comfort level. All thatís really happening is that they are being denied the somnolence and sensuality, which is the best of summer.

Hot, humid weather is blessedly disenabling.

Take a cue from your Daytimer. In a non-air-conditioned environment, those pages cling to your fingers. The ink of your task list transfers itself to your forearms, reminding you just how stubbornly hidebound our schedules really are.

Take a cue from your clothes. If youíre not working in air-conditioning, you canít dress seriously. You have to wear sandals or sundresses or bizarre combinations of jerseys and sweatpants with cut-out necks and legs and arms. In the summertime, skin seeks air.

Take a cue from your brain. Itís too hot to be nasty, neurotic or compulsive, so your brain acquires a pleasant airheaded quality. So your thoughts naturally address the key topics of summertime thinking: Is it better to make lemonade or sun tea? Should the potatoes be peeled for the vichyssoise? And whose turn is it, anyway, to slice the limes for the gin and tonics?

Naturally, duty does call during the summer months; you do have to attend to tasks. So you might want to spend a couple of hours in front of the fan, answering e-mail, writing reports, earning your bread and board. But thatís only so that you can eventually shut the fan off, stock the picnic basket and sit by the side of a noisy creek.

At least, thatís the best advice I can give, considering my current state of mind.

Which is summer-struck, to say the least.

Iíve got to go fetch one daughter from a friendís swimming pool. The other daughter is busy pouring juice into special Popsicle molds. A friend of mine is leaving her air-conditioned offices to join us for something weíre going to throw on the grill. Weíre not sure what, yetóthatís too far to plan ahead.

But for now, Iím about to silence the whir of this busy computer and listen instead for the sounds of lawn mowers and ice cream trucks. After supper, I may finish up the chess game or sink into the bathtub.

Then, much later, when the kids are in bed and my friend has gone home, Iíll lay the clean sheets across my bed and replace the summer comforter in its butter-colored covering. I will still smell the heavy scent of lavender or the trailing aroma of an extinguished candle flame. And it will be time, at last, for a summerís night of sleep.

óJo Page

You can contact Jo Page at jopage@graceniska.org.


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