A Lake Geneva summer begins in earnest on Memorial Day Weekend, or so the cultural norm would have you believe. Fire up your grills and don your trunks, when that calendar rolls to the end of May and the Holiday Weekend begins, it’s time for summer at the lake. But we know this isn’t exactly true, because Memorial Day Weekend is usually only a dress rehearsal for summer, though the weather will dictate if it’s a rehearsal or the real thing. If it’s hot and sunny it’s summer, if it’s cold and dreary, it’s a rehearsal. We are nothing if not flexible in our leisure.
But then summer really begins in the middle of June, when the kids are out of school and the weather forms a more predictable summery pattern. If you don’t believe that summer might start in June, then it surely begins just before Independence Day Weekend. Happy Fourth, the people say, which is as sacrilegious as saying Happy First, on January 1st. No one would say that, of course, but we give a pass to the Happy Fourth People, for whatever our reason. Still, summer begins that weekend and no one could suggest that if it hadn’t already started on the Friday before Memorial Day, and it hadn’t already started in the middle of June when the kids begin their break, then certainly everyone agrees that by that Friday before Independence Day it is pure, undeniable, perfect, summer.
This is where my problem lies. July is a great month, no one could disagree. And August is too, though August has a struggle on its hands, though it might only be a struggle on my hands. I don’t feel like summer is truly summer until the cicadas are singing in the trees, which doesn’t start until very late July or very early August, depending on the mood of the insects which varies from year to year. How can it be summer if the trees aren’t alive with the steady or pulsing whirl of these insects? We know that summer isn’t like winter, because winter is cold and quiet and summer is warm and loud. Who could suggest that summer is still? Poets might pretend it is, and Facebook posts from the otherwise weary would have you believe that there is stillness in summer, but I refuse this notion. Summer is a background noise of afternoon wind in the grasses and waves against the shore and boats in the distance and cicadas in the trees. And even though I feel like summer has been marvelous and impressive and present since the end of May, I must balance this with the fact that my summer just began a little over one week ago, when the bugs told me it had finally arrived.
The difficulty here is that I also know that August marks the end of summer, because the kids return to school and football returns to my television and the wimpiest of trees start to shed their leaves. This is one of the great paradoxes of my existence, how summer can both begin and end within the period of two weeks, but such is the oddity of summer at the lake.