Cresting the hill …

By Jim McGuire - Contributing columnist

Summer begins tomorrow.

What? You thought it was summer already? Nope. You just got fooled by the balmy weather. While it may have looked like summer and felt like summer, those recent ninety degree days were merely spring’s last hot breaths—the season’s final sweaty gasps.

Today is still spring, and so’s most of tomorrow.

Spring officially gives way to summer amid the fleeting moment of the passing solstice—an astronomical event marking the sun’s highest, northernmost point as it, arcs across our sky. This occurs tomorrow evening, June 20th, at 6:34 p.m.

You summer aficionados still have a couple of days to wait.

“I love summer!” my wife exclaimed the other morning.

We were having breakfast on the cottage’s deck, enjoying the tranquility. The Stillwater flowed sedately along a few yards from where sat, a shimmering green-gold ribbon. Across the channel, the tops of the towering sycamores were lit by the rising sun.

June’s soft air was sweet, fragrant with incense from a nearby patch of red bergamot already being busily worked by a trio of ruby-throat hummingbirds. Squirrels and nuthatches were taking turns securing their own first meals at the seed feeders hanging in the nearby box-elder.

I grunted. It was, I admitted, idyllic — especially the warm sun which felt wonderfully therapeutic on muscles made sore by my recently renewed efforts to make meaningful progress on several remodeling projects..

“Summer is my favorite season,” my wife reaffirmed. “The longest, hottest days of the year!”

I took a judicious sip of coffee and gave her announcement a moment to settle. “Well, about summer … you’re only half right.”

In retrospect, I believe several factors are to blame for this less-than-tactful assessment.

First, I was still sleepy — doubtless dull of brain and lulled by the early hour. Secondly, I’d consumed no more than half my first cup of coffee, so caffeine insufficiency played a part. And finally, I know Myladylove’s temperament and should have anticipated her reaction to such a pronouncement, however well-intentioned; I simply messed up.

“Oh?” she said, getting an impressive amount of menace into that single syllable as she affixed me with a withering glare. The surrounding ambient temperature instantly dropped twenty degrees.

“Uhh-h,” I began, backpedalling for all I was worth. “What I, uh, meant was…uh, that summer’s days aren’t the longest.”

“Oh?” she said again, her tone marginally dialed back on menace, though still pinning me with that baleful stare.

I backpedalled more.

“True, the upcoming solstice — the day summer starts — is the longest day of the year,” I said. “But while the weather will keep getting hotter and hotter, the days will begin growing shorter. Not much at first — just a few minutes by the end of the month. But by almost an hour come the end of July, and when August ends, we’ll have lost over two hours of sunlight per day.”

At that point my wife let me off the hook. She relaxed, looked around a bit, took a sip of her tea. “So you’re telling me while it will keep getting nicer, I’ll have increasingly less time to enjoy the heat?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said, “that’s pretty much the deal.”

I tried my best to sound as commiseratively apologetic as possible, because I know how much she delights in hot weather. While I can only take summer’s heat and sun in small doses, being a true daughter of the South, at heart she’s an incorrigible beach bunny — the sunnier and hotter the better.

Myladylove shook her head. “That’s so unfair.”

“Think of summer’s arrival as the top of a hill,” I countered. “We’ve been climbing up the slope all spring—in fact we started heading up last December, the moment the winter solstice passed. It took us six months to get here … and now we’re at the top. The equinox signals summer’s beginning.”

“But when we crest the hill,” my wife clarified, “we then start down. Right?”

“Well, yeah,” I admitted. “But only in length of available daylight. Just a tiny amount per day. The sun keeps building the heat.”

“But the countdown back to winter starts Monday,” she said. “Now I’m depressed.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Well,” Myladylove replied, “you can maybe make it up a little bit by taking me out for breakfast.”

Yup. I’m pretty sure I got off cheap.

By Jim McGuire

Contributing columnist

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at