Magical Summertime

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

Memories of Thanksgiving and winter’s sacred days are the stuff of snapshots ... of family gatherings around the bounty of the communal table, beside the hearth, beneath the tree.

Summertime memories, though, are the stuff of long-form films, played out slowly in the mind’s screening room ... of warm rain and cooling shade ... of hot, sandy beaches slapped by foamy saltwater and chilly entries into the chlorinated blue of neighborhood pools ... of the tang of fresh-mowed grass ... of an enveloping warmth that rises from the blacktop after a thunderstorm ... of warm, bright mornings with time for play and hot, hazy afternoons with time to read a book, chosen not by a teacher but by the reader ... of relief over the school year past and anxious curiosity about the school year ahead ... and mostly, of the long sweep of time stretching to the horizon, and the magical moments that will surely fill this limitless green landscape.

Summertime is magical, especially for the young and surely at least in memory for those of a certain age. For one late middle-aged man, memories abound of summers as a boy in the 1960s, with time spent absorbed in the wondrous worlds summoned up by author Ray Bradbury, a gifted storyteller who passed away last month at age 91.

The boy in question spent long afternoons, and sometimes long beyond the midnight hour, devouring the pocket-sized, drugstore paperbacks of Bradbury’s works, delighting in the awesome, sometimes awful, but always exhilarating realms they recounted. His boyhood summer Bradbury list returns to mind without prompting. The Martian Chronicles. Fahrenheit 451. The Illustrated Man. I Sing the Body Electric! Something Wicked This Way Comes. And his favorite all-time summer read, Dandelion Wine. This latter classic’s opening passage opens our ode to summertime, as we offer a few excerpts from literary works that describe and celebrate this magical season.

It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer.

— Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, 1957

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

Summer on the land is spring completed and fall in the making, time in both its strange dimensions.

— Hal Borland, Homeland: A Report from the Country, 1969

Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be graceful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.

— Deb Caletti, Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, 2004

“Come with me,” Mom says. “To the library. Books and summertime go together.”

— Lisa Schroeder, I Heart You, You Haunt Me, 2008

Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.

— George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, 1996

 [T]hat old September feeling, left over from school days, of summer passing, vacation nearly done, obligations gathering, books and football in the air ... Another fall, another turned page: there was something of jubilee in that annual autumnal beginning, as if last year’s mistakes had been wiped clean by summer.

 — Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose, 1971 


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