Spring ran through our yard, panting like Charlie after we’ve played ball with him, and before I had a chance to lie in the hammock or sit in the swing, Summer barreled right in. The azaleas, the spirea, the dog woods, the pear trees, assorted wild flowers, and a variety of weeds are blooming and I love looking at them—even most of the weeds are pretty. Petunias are popping up everywhere, thanks to the birds, but I like petunias and birds. I have so many orange canna lilies coming up that I’ll have to thin them, and I do hate to throw away a good flower. Maybe some one will stop by and want some. I love all the signs of spring, but the temperatures are screaming, “SUMMER!” Last week our thermometer climbed very close to 90 degrees for several days. Next week promises more of the same. And so the perpetual southern summer begins.
According to the calendar, Spring has been here less than a month and holds dominion until June 21. Somebody needs to explain that to Summer. It’s here and brought its usual nuisances with it—except for the gnats. I haven’t seen them yet, but I know they’ll arrive any day now. We Georgians know what to expect from Summer. We’ve lived with the misery all our lives, but how do we explain it to out-of-state visitors?
Friends from Minnesota, the Cook family, are coming down to visit us around the end of June. They’ve never been to Georgia before and have no idea what they’re in for. We advised them to come in the winter, which would seem like summer to them, but it didn’t work out. How do you explain a South Georgia summer to a Minnesotan?
First of all, we explained about not just the heat, but the atrocious humidity, the kind that brings sweat to your brow when you step out the door at 7 a.m. and keeps it there until 10 at night. It clings to your skin, saps your strength, and makes the air too heavy in your lungs. The Cook children want to work in the garden that they’ve heard so much about. I wonder how long their enthusiasm will last when they learn that working in the garden requires rising from the bed in the early, early hours. If they’re typical children, well, we’ll see.
Even worse are Summer’s eagle-sized mosquitoes that we southerners have to protect not only ourselves, but also our cats and puppies from. These mosquitoes can drain a child of blood in a matter of minutes, and the small animals have no chance at all. That’s why we keep our poor dog and cat in the house, not because we’re soft-hearted or soft-headed. We have lived through Georgia summers for well in excess of 60 years though, so the soft-headed part may apply, now that I think about it.
And as far as I’m concerned, the worst thing about summer is the gnats. I can smother myself with insect repellent to ward off the mosquitoes. I can find a body of water and jump in to avoid the heat. But the gnats appear from nowhere and torture us from April until November. We breathe them in. They’re constantly in our eyes, mouths, and ears. There’s no escaping them, and nothing works consistently well at repelling them. Improved repellents have appeared in the last few years, but none work as well as I’d like them to. I’ve found no way to avoid them except to stay inside for the entire summer. That’s no workable solution.
So the Cooks have been instructed on Georgia summers. We’ll see how it goes. Next visit they might want us to go north, and that’s fine. We’ll just be sure not to go in winter. We Georgians would surely freeze to death.