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I don’t care what you’ve heard from Gershwin: This summertime, the livin’ is decidedly not easy. The whole world is a more restless place than it was last year, and the sweltering heat (temperatures are likely to hit 120 this week in Phoenix) can bring out the worst in everyone.
Fortunately there are some benefits to the sun hitting us at full strength. The summer solstice — the year’s longest day — is a time for celebration and spiritual observance, adding symbolic heft to every drop of sweat. In addition to the spirits said to wander during this time, the sun’s heat is an elemental force that can energize or overwhelm us at whim; we enjoy the long summer days best when we finally surrender to this altered state instead of treating it like something we need to escape.
The following quotes revel in the majesty of our very own neighborhood star, brought to you right at the time when its powers are approaching their zenith. (Note how many of these books were published before the proliferation of air conditioning!)
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea, 1955
“The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.”
Henry James, An International Episode, 1878
“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Lewis Spence, British Fairy Origins, 1946
“Some evidence seems to exist that an idea prevailed that in the fairy sphere there is a reversal of the seasons, our winter being their summer. Some such belief seems to have been known to Robert Kirk, for he tells us that ‘when we have plenty they [the fairies] have scarcity at their homes.’ In respect of the Irish fairies they seem to have changed their residences twice a year: in May, when the ancient Irish ‘flitted’ from their winter houses to summer pastures, and in November, when they quitted these temporary quarters.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925
“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.”
Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle: A Memoir, 2005
“One benefit of Summer was that each day we had more light to read by.”
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, 1946
“Sunsets we always liked because they only happen once and go away.”
“But, Lena, that’s sad.”
“No, if the sunset stayed and we got bored, that would be a real sadness.”
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, 1970
“I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer – its dust and lowering skies.”
Truman Capote, Summer Crossing, 2005
“Hot weather opens the skull of a city, exposing its white brain, and its heart of nerves, which sizzle like the wires inside a light bulb. And there exudes a sour extra-human smell that makes the very stone seem flesh-alive, webbed and pulsing.”
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 1855
“Press close, bare-bosomed Night!
Press close, magnetic, nourishing Night!
Night of south winds! Night of the large, few stars!
Still, nodding Night! Mad, naked, Summer Night!”
Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle, 1948
“Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad?”
Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets, 1959
“Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960
“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon after their three o’clock naps. And by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There’s no hurry, for there’s nowhere to go and nothing to buy … and no money to buy it with.”
Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942
“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at the sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”