Sumer is icumen in

We’ve had some hot days lately, and in my neck of the woods, that means hot, humid days. The kind of weather where you break a sticky sweat just walking, there’s no breeze, and you wonder how civilization arose without air conditioning. This is not my fave season, as most of you know, and after the third hot day in a row, I started down my usual gripe: The bugs! The heat! The lousy sleep! The rubbishing, hellishing bugs!

Science supports the side-eye I give summer. When it’s sweltering, we’re not as good at quick thinking, we’re more prone to violent crime, and we’re dealing with higher levels of stress hormones. Hot muggy environments (like, say, most prisons) in addition to reducing cognitive function, upping the cortisol, and shortening our fuses, also make us less kind.

Considering that climate change is a thing, this is not good news.

But how many of us know people who adore summer? As a kid I lived for those long summer vacations, and if I stop kvetching about summer’s shortcomings for even thirty seconds, I can think of a ton of things I delight in about summer.

Sounds: Crickets, songbirds, Santana’s Smooth (because you only hear it in the summer and it makes you move), rain pattering against leaves, hoot owls, good food sizzling on the grill, “Marco! Polo!”

Scents: Honeysuckle (found some blooming today), peonies (also in bloom), roses, cut fields of hay, ozone, rain on hot asphalt, funnel cakes.

Sights: Lightning bugs (yes, I know… bugs), baby cows, baby horses, baby anything, leafy trees, yard flowers, blooming chicory, early sunrises, late sunsets, moonrises, the greenery, the greenery, and the greenery.

Sensations: Light weight clothing and not much of it, grass under my bare feet, my horse’s silky summer coat, a cold glass of iced tea held against my forehead, gentle breezes, a friendly kitty brushing against my bare legs.

Yums: Cold, juicy, sweet watermelon. Fresh strawberries, sun-warmed blue berries, chip-and-dip on the patio, make-your-own taco and burrito bars, umbrella drinks, and home made peach ice cream…

The best thing about summer though, for me, is the sense that I don’t have brace myself for the cold whenever I set toe upon floor, or butt upon saddle. Cold is invigorating, but it’s also lovely to get out of bed and be able to just toddle around without bundling up to go downstairs.

So I can, if I make the effort, talk myself into appreciating summer. Or I can just grouse about the bugs. Are there darknesses you are prone to cursing? Times when you have to jolly yourself into a more balanced attitude? To two commenters, I’ll send signed print copies of Miss Delectable (c’mon next Tuesday!).

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35 comments on “Sumer is icumen in

  1. I not a fan of winter. I DO appreciate snow, within reason, and cold, for a few days. And of course I like Christmas etc. But the concept of snow, cold etc. for any length of time NOPE! I get through it by dreaming of spring and summer and doing a bit of hibernating, then I can manage.

    As a life long Midwesterner, it may come as surprise I don’t like winter but I also like the comradely and character building a good, solid, typical Midwestern Winter brings. Plus, I know I can get through anything if I can get through the snow,ice and the slop that follows! 🙂

    My choir has sung “Sumer Is Icumen In” quite a few times. Not in Middle English but the translation. You probably know it’s the oldest notated secular piece (1260c.), Grace, and is also referred to as the Reading Rota. It’s by that prolific composer, Anonymous. Charming and fun and full of summer sounds, did you know it figures prominently in the 1970-ish horror film, “The Wicker Man?” The one with Edward Woodward–and it’s a really, really, REALLY good use of it!

  2. Family. Can’t live with them and can’t live without them, or so the saying goes. Some days I think I could live without. As my mother closes in on her 80th birthday, she gets meaner by the day and she was never a nice person. She just spent 3 days in the hospital after we thought she had a stroke. It turns out she had a UTI that brought on confusion and memory loss. It was very scary for 24 hours and I was digging out the POA and DNR paperwork.

    After the antibiotics kicked in, she returned to her general pleasantness. She was criticizing everyone who was charged with her care. “They haven’t fed me for 24 hours!” while an unopened package of cookies sat next to her. “I don’t WANT cookies!” “Why are they always looking at those computers?” She flat out called me a liar when I tried to explain what had happened the day before. She yelled at the young lady who delivered her lunch. She thinks the hospital drugged her and that’s why she couldn’t remember anything, never mind the fact that she arrived in the ER in complete confusion before they even had an opportunity to medicate. I gave up and went home. I don’t have it in me to watch her verbally abuse everyone within hearing distance.

    So now I’m in that familiar position of having to jolly myself back into being a dutiful daughter. I won’t put her in a nursing home. I made her that promise years ago, but oh, I have my moments. I know she’s angry at life. I know she’s a bitter old lady. I don’t know how to deal with it without becoming angry myself.

    I came home and adored my peonies and tried not to think on it overly much. People tell me hospital staff are used to it. They have thick skin. Let them deal with her. But I don’t want them to have to deal with her. I want her to say please and thank you and be grateful there are people who will care for her. But that’s a pipe dream and I know it. So, here I am trying to jolly myself once again back into duty.

    • Elizabeth, I am so sorry about your Mother’s anger. If she wasn’t always like that, it may very well be a result of aging. My mother got to the point that she would be trying to beat you up while telling you that she loved you. Alzheimer’s. She was one of the best people I ever knew, and I miss her beyond belief.

      You didn’t say, but I hope you don’t live with her. It might be better for both of you if you find her a good place nearby where you can visit her frequently. She may even enjoy the change of scenery and new people to complain about or to. You also have a duty to yourself.

      Mama ran two of my sisters into the ground within weeks, when they tried to take care of her. She could touch her toes without bending her knees and could take off like a streak of lightning. Wore them both out. She went into a very nice assisted living facility. Two of my sisters lived nearby and visited several times a week.

      I’m wishing you both all the best.

      • This means so much to me. I know the time is coming, and it gives me strength knowing others have had similar experiences with their aging parents.

    • I went through this with my mom before she died. I’m going to tell you what my doctor said to me when I needed hospitalization for pneumonia, but had to try & take care of her because I’d promised not to place her outside the home. Doc took me by the shoulders, shoved an oxygen mask over my face to shut me up, and demanded, “What makes you think you can do by yourself what requires three eight-hour shifts of trained professionals to do for her? If you die, and you’re on the path if you don’t face reality and start taking care of yourself, they’ll put her somewhere you don’t get to choose & find those shifts of people to deal with her anyway. So are you going to keep being a martyr to a woman who’s already lived her life and let her dementia kill you? Or are you going to realize she never would have demanded this of you if she was in her right mind & knew what you were going through trying to do the impossible for her by yourself out of misplaced love?” Thank God he had the guts to make me see sense & the willingness to make some phone calls to help me.

      I hope it helps to know you are not alone in having to make agonizing choices because you love your mom so much.

      • Thank you so much. It really does help knowing others have faced these same decisions. You’re lucky to have had a doctor who was so honest with you and I appreciate that you would share with me.

    • I did not want the sun to go down on this week without leaving a reply to your comment, because lordy… moms, and moms who are less than lovely much of the time… That dynamic of, “You have to love me because I’m your mom,” but, “I can treat you like crap because I’m your mom…” Books have been written about that mixed and toxic message. And it’s one thing when Mom is still kicking butt and taking names, but when you see her faculties eroding, and see the light of reason fading from her eyes, it’s a whole ‘nother nother. The fearful woman she’s always been becomes much more visible.
      Dealing with a brat, regardless of age, is grueling. When the time comes that you can no longer keep her safe, or keep yourself safe around her, I hope that you will revisit that promise about not finding someplace else for her to dwell. The professionals know stuff, like that UTIs can make Mom batty, or low salt can make her batty, or dehydration can make her batty… elder care is specialized, and challenging, you are only one human being who did not get the best mothering.
      Thank God for peonies, but you don’t have to jolly anything as far as I’m concerned. You’re in a tough position and doing the best you can, and it’s really HARD.
      Hugs, and hugs, and hugs.

  3. First of all I would like to say Grace I enjoyed your latest book very much.The beginning of the story brought back my early teenage years memories of that day when my girls body began the dreaded curse of womanhood. Trouble was my mum did not prepare me for this event.We had not had the important lessons at school which would have explained a lot.I was having a bath when the water turned red.I thought I was bleeding to death and jumped out of the bath in a state of panic.Mum came running in and calmed me down and said to me I must not sit next to boys in class.Sixty years ago and I vowed when I had children they would be better prepared than I.I have strayed from this week’s topic but I have got to say that I am my most worse enemy sometimes these days .I am less patient so rush things and end up causing a mess.Then I curse and give up.My daughter reminds me to calm down and chill.She is right and I must jolly myself into a more productive outlook and attitude.I don’t like me at the moment.Summer will help I am a sunshine and blue sky gal so out comes the sun oil beach mat,Sun glasses and Sun hat and my five minute walk to beach and sea.I am so lucky.

    • I recall my mother explaining menstruation to me when I was about eight, and my reaction was, “First there’s that bit about where babies come from, and that sounds REALLY weird. Now you tell me every adult female I know has been putting up with this mess every month? What else aren’t you tell me, because so far, the news has all been bad.”
      My outlook on menstruation never did improve much, but I’m glad you will soon be beachcombing and upping your sunshine!

  4. Oh yes, I am prone to cursing WINTER. Lol. I really love summer, although I’m not as heat tolerant as I used to be. And I do adore exercising in the cold. But hot days, little dresses, flip flops, the warm sand under my toes. All these things are heaven to me.
    I have to work harder to come up with things I like about winter. It’s such a chore just to DO anything- it takes so long to put on all those layers. And I can’t manage my car keys with super huge mittens flopping around at the end of my arms

    Haha, see? I can find plenty to complain about. I recently read that one should immediately say something one is grateful for every time one complains. That really brings to the forefront how many times we all complain! Sheew.

    No need to send a book if I win, I am reading the ebook format now. Please send the book to another deserving soul if my name happens to turn up on the random generator. Thanks for all you do, Grace!

    • I do like working all day in my nightie and flip flops, or sundress and flip flops, with every door and window in the house open… But I also like bundling up in enough winter layers that my shape (or lack of shape) is obscured. I’ve wondered how much of my antipathy toward summer is a body-image problem. Growing up, I was the same size as a sister two years my senior. I wasn’t particularly fat, but I was big, and I was more aware of that in summer.Things to think about…

  5. Love the line from the Middle English poem.

    I don’t like being cold so am thrilled to finally see summer. Another reason is that I have two outside cats and I like them being cold. One will fight you to keep from being brought in, and the other one will wail nonstop until you let him out. I have two shelters made from coolers outside but only one cat will get into his shelter. 🙁

    All of our trees are in full leaf, and my husband has planted flowers in the planters by the pool. It’s a lovely time of year.

    I’m still waiting on the cicadas! No sign of them yet.

      • ETA – it’s been one of those days – that I also don’t need the physical book. I read mostly ebooks now.

    • I’m becoming an e-book reader too, in defense of my eyesight. I also feel like all those trees ought not to end up in the dumpster…
      The cicadas started here on Tuesday. Walked outside and the whole mountain was doing a loud version of white noise. I love it.

  6. I love summer and thunderstorms and wading into any body of water that’s swimmable. Point me at the ocean and I’ll swim til I shrivel. Lol

  7. I curse many things – things that I was never allowed to curse – but, I do now! I’m an obstreperous soul!!
    Bugs – I have a phobia, so they get cursed BIG TIME.
    Summer never has meant happiness to me. (Truth be told, I’m not that fond of winter, either.) I liked being out of school, but the second half of my grow up time was spent in a desert climate, so it was 100 to 115 degrees outside. It was so hot, the dryness would suck the air out of your lungs when first going outside.
    I’ve stopped trying to jolly myself up over certain people or situations. What I do instead is acknowledge the problems and say, “You can’t control it, so don’t make yourself crazy trying!”
    I think that can count as jollying myself into a more balanced attitude, though… maybe?
    There are a few decision making “biases” that I learned about about and knowing them has helped me… so, I just tell my brain to stop going down the easy path.
    Also, gratitude journals are super important for me!

    • I finish every day listing five things I’m grateful for about THAT DAY, no just doing the health/family/home/pets/health again thing… It makes me think about what went right that day, when my guardian angels stepped in (like that moment when I pulled out in reverse by accident by didn’t collide with anything…), or when I should take a little bow because I done good.
      Tonight my blog buddies will go on the list!

  8. Ha! boy is this appropriate. Right now I am fretting over home repair and maintenance issues-repairs that MUST be done or I will have a worse crisis. But the money! people messing up my house! having to empty out cabinets and closets to access the plumbing! having to get someone to reconstruct walls after the immediate crisis is dealt with! I like having my own little house but I HATE having to deal with “things’. Also I have a lot of insects, ants mostly, because the vegetation is rampant and close to the house and when I try to get rid of it I get poison ivy and then I moan and whine and scratch. So it’s not that I can jolly myself into hating the chores less, but I have to just get on with them so I can stop obsessing about how dreadful it all is, and then I can sit on the porch with iced tea and read the latest Grace as a reward.

    • That’s me and doctors’ appointments. Just hold my nose and do as pleasant as I can to those involved, and get it over with. On no day is that situation going to admit of jollying.

  9. I can no longer deal with the heat of summer in Texas. It is so intense in my area that if I am out too long, I end up with a migraine – unless the time is spent in a pool with a cool drink or 10. I also have chronic nerve and muscle pain in my neck that many times ends up making my entire body ache. Luckily, I can mostly avoid the outdoors during the heat of the day when doing yard work. I do multiple sets of stretches each day, change position often (move or rest a lot), avoid lifting heavy objects, etc, and of course, take my pain meds and supplement with full spectrum CBD to help keep the pain at a low enough level that I can function. Reading is a wonderful distraction and I really enjoyed the advanced copy of Miss Delectable!

    • Sounds like you have a summer battle plan that works–especially the part about the pool and a cool drink. I’m guessing above-ground pools in particular are a growth industry these days, between more WFH and climate change. In fact… Well, not this year. But maybe soon? Nah.

  10. Summer is glorious in this neck of the woods. It’s mostly sunny without being unforgivably hot and dry with enough humidity to keep my nose from bleeding. In spring there are acres of apple & cherry blossoms and a goodly number of calves and lambs. The asparagus is about done, but by midsummer there will be an abundance of fruit & veggies. Fall brings the late apples, grapes, the last of the tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers and garlic.

    However, I watch from behind closed windows. I am very allergic to alfalfa and timothy. I no longer tolerate heat. The last 15 years or so, by midsummer we usually have smoke, sometimes so thick the streetlights come on in the daytime. And then there are the bugs, although we also host bats and swallows. By midsummer, even the skeeters have mostly dried up, however, depending on where you are. We also have 17,000 acres of “managed” wetlands. Said bats and swallows do well there, but the beautiful trails and paths are best enjoyed after a hard frost.

    Elizabeth, my own mother is elderly. Her family has all suffered dementia in later years, some of them happily, some of them bitterly. Mom housed her own auntie until Auntie beat her black and blue with a chair. Look after yourself, and take care.

    • I get down on Maryland–ticks, skitos, hornets, poison ivy, humidity–but there are so many plagues that do not frequent this place. Forest fires are rare, earthquakes really rare, mudslides and avalanches non-existent,and I can’t ever recall anybody’s well going dry (knock wood). From that standpoint, it’s a pretty nice place to live. Here’s hoping it’s not another wild fire year…

  11. My feelings toward summer are the same as yours except for crickets. I hate crickets. When I hear them I think hot, muggy and buggy.We are taking baby steps out into the world again but there are few places we want to go during the long, hot summer. Returning from a spring vacation and planning one for fall usually brightens my mood and gives me patience to wait out the summer by reading books.
    This year I am finding it much more difficult to get into a positive state of mind because of all the things occurring which may detract from my happiness for the rest of my life.The two big negatives are the pandemic and the possible loss of freedom and democracy.I think we are in a downward slope as far as the pandemic goes but what is the likelihood of a variant occurring that does not respond to vaccines when there are thousands of covid 19 transmissions happening globally every day. Within a few days such a variant could travel around the world. We have a political party that lies about the assault on our government and is doing everything possible to demolish our democracy through voter suppression. The possible loss of freedom and democracy is frightening to me. I try to lighten my mood a little by having news free days. Seeing unarmed black men being killed by police is deeply disturbing and so very sad. Yet we live in a violent country and we need police who have a very difficult job.Thinking about moving to a less politically charged state does lift my spirits a little.It is exhausting to live in a city and state that is always in the news and the political ads are unending. There are fear mongering ads on TV every day and I wonder if this is happening in all states. Lately I have been thinking about spending part of the year in a different country. I am trying what I have always done to lift my spirits but this year it is not working as well.

    • Lynn, I think your decision to have news free days is brilliant. I switched my primary news source to NBC because I found the one I was using became just too sensational and subjective when they could no longer push all the political buttons all the time. I also never get on social media at the beginning or the end of the day. It’s a little afternoon task, scroll through, post if I have something book-ly to say, then skedaddle. Both the news media and social media are greed-driven, so they don’t get much of my time.
      As for where to move… When you find that happy, civilized, place of true, functional community, please let us know so we can all move there with you! (And oh, the library such a place will have!)

  12. So I don’t Grouse about much, but one thing that BUGS me is Lantern Fly Larvae. They are fast moving creepy black and white potted beetle-looking things and progress to red and black and white annoying hopping things…I really hate them and routinely grouse about them. I celebrated when I read that a fungus was killing a lot of them. NOW we have Cicadas. My Daughter is looking forward to crunching them. BUT I think they are just gross. I am not looking forward to their loud noise driving me BUGGY this summer. I like to sit on my deck, I do not like to Grouse, I love my flowers and I love my yard. BUT THOSE TWO BUGS REALLY BUG ME!

    • If it’s any consolation, the benefit to the birds, the soil, the small rodents, and the whole ecosystem of a cicada emergence lasts clear up until the next emergence. It’s significant and powerful, and to get it, we only have to put up with a few loud weeks. If only the IRS bothered me on the same schedule.

  13. I love having a screened in porch, this solves my bug hatred, and a ceiling fan to help with the heat, but that humidity is the thing I will complain and complain about. I try to counter this by focusing on how much of the time I am actually quite comfortable because of the time of day or just not being a hot spell and that definitely helps my crabbiness. Plus, I love the farmer’s markets so much that I try to focus on the delicious fresh produce (even if it does heat up the house to make use of it). We are lucky enough to have beautiful mature trees around us, and I find spending time with a gorgeous leafy tree will jolly me out of many bad moods.

    • I realized years ago that I associate big trees with safety. If an ecosystem can support big tress, it probably has all manner of rodents, birds, and intermediate predators, as well as a good water supply. In other words, it’s hospitable to my own species. And so pretty…

  14. My go-to for summer “outside” (which for me isn’t much) is what they sell to mostly men for fishing. Long lightweight pants, vented with ankle cinches, vented long-sleeved shirt. Helps with both sunscreen & bug spray.