There were two stories on the radio this morning about summer: one dealt with the problems families with children face when they don’t have school to send their kids to during the day, while the other was about our summer music playlist. This latter story led off with the announcer noting that we were halfway through summer. Which of course sent me into all kinds of considerations.
There are several different summers. One is the traditional season that begins at the solstice around June 21 or 22, and runs until the autumnal equinox around September 21 or 22nd. If you’re counting what feels like summer, this is the one that counts. In the Great American Midwest, and plenty of other places, the heat and humidity often last at least that long.
Meteorologists have long used a different reckoning, counting seasons from the first day of the first month in which the seasonal pattern prevails. Thus winter is from December 1 through January 31. Summer is June 1 through August 31. But you see the problem with this, which I noted above. Summery weather can begin sooner and run longer. Meteorologists need well-defined units in which to record statistics about the seasons they study, so this system makes sense. If a summery weather pattern persists too long into what they normally deem autumn, that’s something to be noted. (Except, of course, in the United States, where we have politicians to keep an eye on weather patterns, and we don’t need to listen to meteorologists and other ‘scientists.’)
Then again there’s that summer vacation. When a school-aged kid says ‘summer is almost over,’ it means that summer vacation is coming to an end, no matter the weather. Summer is defined by the local school district and by state laws that say how many days of school students will have in a given year. Increasingly summer ends sooner and sooner. It used to be all schools began the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Now school districts are worried that students won’t have enough weeks of instruction before they take their federally-mandated achievement tests, so in some places they start as early as mid-August. But of course federally-mandated achievement tests are an important part of every child’s education, so we have to adjust our lives to accommodate them.
All of these various ‘summers’ mean something to different people. Summer, like all seasons, is a time, but it is also a feeling, and I think we all know summer when we feel it. Like winter, it is a feeling we both cherish and grow weary of. No matter the date, when it has been too hot and too humid for too long, we all pine for summer to be over.
This is, of course, why autumn is the most popular season by far.