On the corner ‘Summertime’

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Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief

As I write this, it’s June 21, 2011, at 10:16 in the morning in California. This beautiful star on which we ride, this magnificent home where we reside, finally achieved its annual maximum tilt, a 23.4 degree lean in relation to the sun, and our hemisphere turned its face fully into its warmth. At this exact moment our summer solstice began and ushered in its own season.

Sirius, the dog star, shines more brightly than any other star in the heavens. At this time of the year it rises and sets in conjunction with the sun and ushers in what we call “the dog days of summer”—supposedly, the 40 hottest and muggiest days of the season. This year they fall between July 3 and August 11.

The dog days tend to produce an easy ennui in each of us. Focus turns elsewhere. Time crawls. Absent “hurry” has left for vacation. A single sunbeam searches out a pathway through the spreading shade and radiates the glory of the roses bursting their bounty on a nearby bush. The bees, undeterred in their tasks, dutifully fulfill their obligation to the garden, pollinating the products of spring and singing their own song of summer.

The long, lovely summer afternoons slowly meld into evening as the pleasant cordiality of a day resisting night spreads its hypnotic vapors, and “genial friendship plays the pleasing game of interchanging praise” (Oliver Wendell Holmes).

Gershwin found the mood best.


Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.

Your daddy’s rich and your mamma’s good lookin’,

So hush little baby, don’t you cry.

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing,

Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll fly to the sky.

But till that mornin’ there’s a’nothing can harm you

With daddy and mamma standing by.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy

Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high

Your daddy’s rich and your mamma’s good lookin’,

So hush little baby, don’t you cry.


Even with their optimism and hope, Porgy and Bess suffered through their own tragedies.

Not everybody finds the “livin’ easy” these days, either. Many live within the experience of crushing disappointment—of achievements terminated in a newfound poverty, of homes foreclosed, of federal unemployment compensation ended, and of continued rejection of full résumés. The pain of undeserved failure makes breath itself difficult through unspoken sobs. Roles in the household reverse. Medical plans hitched to employment vanish. Building new skills to sell and honing old skills with new information consumes them. More and more, they accept the dangers of isolation to avoid an unearned sense of shame.

New graduates from high school find no work. They do find, however, extreme difficulty in achieving admittance to any college regardless of honors recently received. Even if admitted, they find the classes needed unavailable due to overenrollment. We failed to provide space, and promises evaporated.

No, the fish may be jumpin’ but someone else harvests the high cotton.

But families love each other. They practice the power of practical empathy and band together in support whether or not “daddy’s rich.” Mamma’s still “good lookin.’”

Love enjoys the summer. Its fragrance spreads a pleasant pain in regions of the heart as boys finally find the courage and the will to talk to the most beautiful girl in the world. His halting voice stammers an invitation. She turns toward him. She’s perfect in every way imaginable. Her eyes dance to a tune of welcome. Her voice sings as pure as gold. Her posture reveals no fear. Her words flow in iambic pentameter. Her copper skin glows and a sweet, sweet smell contributes to the separate worlds they inhabit together.

“That would be fun. I’d like that,” she says.

His legs almost collapse as they walk away together, talking and smiling. Soon, he takes her hand.

One summer, 58 years ago, I met Diane. She still triggers the same pleasant pain in regions of my heart.


Diane …


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

William Shakespeare – Sonnet 18


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