June is a transition month, like Sunday night is a transition night. The bridge between spring and summer, between merely warm and truly hot, between merely green and lush green. June nights, as they progress, become summer nights, crickets clatter and tree frogs burp. Nights that no longer cool as the sun sinks, but stay hot and muggy and wrap themselves around you like a sticky blanket.
For school children, each day in June brings them closer and closer to vacation, to freedom that they appreciate mightily, not knowing how free they really already are just to be in school and not at work. Attention slides, then sinks, ‘til teachers give up hope, and school days are filled with recognition assemblies and year-end performances. Goodbye to familiar faces at the desks around you, an element of surprise always around the corner as kids wonder who will sit near them in the autumn. Fond farewells to teachers, mentors. Moms scurrying around buying teacher appreciation gifts. For older students, a high pressure time that threatens to explode them, with exams, final papers, hearing from colleges or about summer jobs.
Parents half look forward, half dread the prospect of less structure to their children’s days. If they are working outside the home, it’s a rush to be sure the days are filled with camps. Almost everyone has some kind of vacation to look forward to in the summer ahead, anticipation, even if it’s just a weekend trip to the beach.
Those days from childhood of leaving school and flinging oneself into summer stay with us somehow. Even in our workaday world, the air seems a little more full of oxygen, the time binds are a little looser. Summer beckons.
Summer nights, ah, those are a treat unto themselves. I thirstily drink of evening in the summer, no longer bound to my living room by cold fingers of winter and spring evenings, by darkness laying its black blanket on me. Suddenly, summer—light graces us with her presence so much longer (and hurrah for the earlier onset of daylight savings time, too!). Evenings do not look inward, as we huddle together with our closest family indoors, but outward, as extended family and friends join us for barbecues on the deck, as our community shares a concert and fireworks, as all the world comes outdoors to stare into the night sky as darkness finally falls. Neighbors stroll our sidewalks, children’s bicycles careen across the corner, lanky teenagers glide by on skateboards. Our eyes follow the path of fireflies flung like stars across the night.
We see each other outside, a spark of recognition, a warm hello, an exchange of news about our day, our kids, the weather. We admire each other’s gardens and lawns, perhaps bemoaning the state of our own.
We block off a cul-de-sac to gather together, slapping mosquitoes in the warm night, for a summer block party. We pile the kids into our cars to head for the pool, maybe even, if we’re lucky, one who has been away at college, and loiter long after in the parking lots chatting under the bright moon, no cold sending us rushing into our cars but rather the summer night drying our skin, our suits, our hair into kinky mops.
At the beach, the moon draws us back outside long after we are ready to turn in. We gaze at the dark blue-black ocean, and dig our toes into the sand where the cool air coming off the water makes them tingle.
All those extra hours of “up”, of wakefulness, of energy, of light—oh, thank Mother Nature for each long summer night.
June is also a tipping point into a period of time awaited perhaps more than any of the year, made all the more precious because of its fragile finiteness. It’s the time to drink in long, long sunlit days, the warmth of the air on skin not burdened by sleeves or jackets, the cool pleasure of gliding through water in a pool or lake warmed by the sun. June days are as long as days ever will be, and heading back in the other direction: it is, in a sense, the beginning of the end.
We want to hang onto pleasures like this, a season like this, but as it always does, the summer will slip away from us. Here we should heed the Buddhists and practice nonattachment, for becoming too attached to a season is folly, sure to end in heartache. And yet even as I soak in the nurturing sun’s rays, I am struck sometimes by a fleeting fragrance of bittersweetness, of an inevitable impending loss.