Opening the Door to Summer: Nostalgia in New England

I consider myself extremely fortunate to live in New England. There is nothing more enchanting than the beauty of our all-too-brief summer after the harsh journey through a seemingly endless winter. Warm days teem with the cheery notes of songbirds and crickets, and even from my office window I can see dragonflies, honeybees, Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, and an occasional hummingbird that drops in to visit a hanging pot of red daisies. When the sun goes down the buzz of insects and the hoots and cries of owls, coyotes, and other prowling creatures fill the night air.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I became used to hot, airless summers, when the thermometer would rise to 100 degrees or higher most days, and the sidewalks and driveways scorched bare feet if you tried to walk on them. There was no such thing as a sea breeze, since we were too far inland from the ocean; to cool off, my siblings and I filled up metal water buckets and emptied them over our heads. On the rare days it rained we were allowed, if there were no thunder or lightning, to put on our bathing suits and run through the brown grass, reveling in the cooling drops that fell from the yellow sky.

Summer days back then were filled with morning chores and afternoon play: bike rides on hilly country roads to visit friends in nearby farm towns; weeding the backyard garden; picking cherries for making pies, and then hiding up in the tree to read books from the local library; hanging, ironing, and folding laundry; running in the woods behind our house and in the fields across the road; collecting Queen Anne’s Lace and honeysuckle for sticky bouquets; catching bumblebees and letting them go; holding races with caterpillars; creating a sand landscape for plastic dinosaurs; collecting clay from the banks of the creek to make crude pottery and baking it in the sun; playing hopscotch and jump rope with the neighborhood kids.

Summer nights were dotted with the magical appearing and disappearing glow of fireflies, glimmering over the fields like tiny fairy lanterns. After the sun went down we drank the iced tea made from spearmint leaves we had picked in the heat of the afternoon. In the summers when the cicadas were in cycle, the hum and buzz of hundreds of them in the trees lulled us to sleep.

The precious memories of those heat-filled summers growing up make me feel all the more privileged to be here in New England, where I can enjoy not only the nearby ocean, but mountains, forests, lakes, and every other type of landscape imaginable. I can still experience the glories of nature and open the windows and doors to bring the outside in during this tantalizingly short but breathtakingly beautiful season.

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