It’s that time of year again. The days grow longer and the sunshine is determined to scorch. The parks fill up with children while picnics spread out in red and white gingham patches. The dog begs to go outside as we put away our heavy coats, hanging them neatly in closets. Long pants give way to shorts as coconut-scented oils fill the air with their perfume. It’s summer.
What phrases and books best evoke those fiery months? If someone bottled the essence of this golden growing season, what would it look like? It’s difficult to choose the best summer words, but let’s look at a few of our current contenders. Some are old, some are new, and some might surprise you.
Shakespeare: It’s impossible for me to think of summer without the Bard showing up. Sonnet 18, in addition to being the perfect love poem, encapsulates the summer months with unequaled, poetic grace. “Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, / And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; / And every fair from fair sometime declines.” Could there be a better description of the summer sun as it pales in comparison to the author’s love? Shakespeare’s poetic brilliance reminds the reader to appreciate each golden day. “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” Summer won’t last, so enjoy it now.
Dandelion Wine: Arguably Ray Bradbury’s most famous book, Dandelion Wine reflects the beauty of summer like a calm blue lake reflects the sky. With star-bright passages that shimmer off the page, it is impossible to read the novel without traveling back to the best summers of our youth. Bradbury’s masterpiece is crafted of short vignettes, all centered on the Spaulding family and their summer rituals. Do yourself a favor and make it your own yearly ritual. Read it during those first June days, or in July, and you’ll be well equipped for the months to follow. “Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.”
Nora Roberts: Roberts’ volumes fly off the bookstore shelves and seem to fit the profile of perfect summer reading material. The engaging plots, interesting characters, and heavy romance can quickly tick away the hot hours of July. And Roberts is no stranger to writing about summer. She whipped this one up, and it’s spot on: “There was nothing like a Saturday – unless it was the Saturday leading up to the last week of school and into summer vacation. That of course was all the Saturdays of your life rolled into one big shiny ball.”
Tuck Everlasting: Summer is a wonderful time to reacquaint yourself with those beautiful books from your childhood. Natalie Babbitt’s tale of immortality and the dangers it poses offers this sparkling gem about summer: “The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.”
Passages that reference the summer season dot the literary landscape like wildflowers. The warmer months are a time of complex joys and freedoms, mixed in with sweat and hotdogs. Some of the greatest writers have tried to snare that magic onto a page. Henry James captured it most simply: “Summer afternoon – Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Can you think of a better way to sing the praises of summer? Share in the comments.