Where did it go? You can hear the cacophony of summer-worshipers everywhere, their wailing and gnashing of teeth, now that the summer of ’09 has faded into the past tense.
Douglas Adams, late and esteemed author of the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy said of deadlines: “I love deadlines, I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Summers are like that. They just whoosh by every year, leaving our ears ringing and out heads swimming with that vague feeling of: ‘what just happened?’ Was that another summer? Again?
It used to be we had seasons — four of them as I recall — distinct segments of our year’s trip around the sun each with their own unique ying and yang.
Fall came with the miraculous colours, as if Mother Nature had spilled a deluxe pizza with a side garden salad all over the landscape, and is there anything quite as beautiful and calm and serene as a perfect Indian Summer day? And a better question is: can we still say ‘Indian summer’ or should it be ‘Indigenous Native Canadian summer’?
Thing is though, fall also brings the cold, sneaking through the door like a stray cat looking for a place to stay.
Winter used to mean snowbanks up to the car door handles, white Christmases and vast, crisp Alberta skies singer Stan Rogers called a “painful blue.” Back in my day, we used to trudge from Parkvale to Central School through actual street-tunnels of snow, the temperature hovering ominously at -40F — a fairly common milestone mark that the old guys shoveling their sidewalks would call “a bit fresh.”
How cold was it? Well, my friends, it was so cold that our breath would immediately freeze solid and hang in the air, stuck there like horizontal icicles. In fact, it would be quite dangerous, on account of those breath icicles would be suspended in the air by sheer frozen molecular freezing for quite some time and if you weren’t careful, you would run right into one of your own or someone else’s. Those things could put your eye out.
And of course my big jug-handle ears were always frozen solid. Two big ear-shaped ice cubes on my head. Heaven forbid that I should wear a tuque or anything that might disturb my perfect Suave Hair Cream-induced hair wave.
Nowadays, winter is mostly a few months of dirty brown, with a couple of ridiculously unfair cold snap blizzard episodes. Most days during the 21st century ‘winter,’ you’re lucky if the snow-deprived rug rats can even find a place to slide down a hill on a Crazy Carpet without grinding to a gut-wrenching halt on a patch of dirt or grass.
Then, way back when, spring would trickle in like the riverlets in the gutters that we used to float our matchstick boats down, and it would always be a contest to see who spotted the first robin.
Now in springtime, the robins are cowering in dark corners of frosty trees, shivering. Their tiny chirpers frozen solid, little thought bubbles clearly visible above their heads: “You call this spring?”
There they are in the unfortunate trees, trees that are trying so hard to grow leaves in the springtime frigidity that, if you’re real quiet, you can hear the branches actually grunting with the effort.
Which reminds me of one of my favourite jokes (stop me if you’ve heard it): Question: What’s brown and sticky? Answer: A stick. Response: Groan.
But even when it isn’t freezing cold in spring, it’s just plain dirty. From the feeble inconsistent winter with not enough snow and too much drama, there’s a piddling attempt at spring melting, but what it really means is allergies, gale-force winds imported from Lethbridge, and Chinooks that cause migraines.
And then summer again. Two short months of unseasonable weather and a 24-hour clock that runs twice as fast as any other season. I’m pretty sure we used to have four seasons. Now it’s just 10 months of weird weather and two months of a fast-forward time warp.
Maybe you had a lovely summer camping in the wilderness of a four-star campground resort or travelling to somewhere exotic like Carrot River, Sask. Or perhaps you stayed home and painted the fence, or had quality family bonding time with so many relatives visiting that you are considering relocating into the witness protection program.
Whether the kids had copious amounts of quality summertime hyperactivity or hung around the 7/Eleven for two months, or whether your summer holiday was a lovely relaxing two-week session in some beach and bikini invested vista in a hot and exotic place where the golf never ends and the beverages are always cold, or whether you spent your entire year’s vacation undergoing emergency dental surgery . . . no matter, it’s all a memory now.
As Inspector Clousseau said, “it’s all part of life’s rich pageant,” to be filed away wherever we each keep our past. And there’s not much else to be done about the summer of ’09 — except of course spend the rest of the year paying off the holiday credit card bills. Then, guess what?
Just like that, it will be summer again.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance columnist.