Summer Is Here!
In the northern hemisphere, yesterday was the summer solstice – the longest day of the year (15 hours 30 minutes at my latitude) and the official first day of summer. In many places, regarding the solstice as the first day of summer seems silly, since summer weather arrives weeks earlier. But in Maine, despite the fact that the state tourist bureau defines the Memorial Day holiday in late May as the beginning of the summer tourist season and despite the fact that gardeners also traditionally use Memorial Day as the date on which it is safe to put out tender plants, summer weather doesn’t usually arrive until the second half of June. This year, for example, the beginning of June featured a long string of rainy days and temperatures that never got up to 60F (15C) – hardly summery.
Some years, summer glides into Maine so gently that you barely notice its arrival as it drifts in on soft sea breezes and brings crystal clear air and high temperatures in the 70s. But this year, summer officially arrived by slamming into Maine with a loud crash. After several days of unseasonably cool weather, temperatures soared into the mid-nineties (about 35C), with high humidity. In the garden, plants gasped in the sudden heat. Leaves curled up protectively in the afternoon sun, the tradescantia flowers that had remained open throughout the cool days at the beginning of the week closed up by late morning, and the last flower of peony ‘M. Jules Elie’ went from a newly opened bud on Tuesday to fully blown by Thursday. Other plants, however, seemed energized by the sudden surge of summer heat. This morning, I found new daylily buds showing all over the garden, and the chartreuse foliage of Spirea japonica ‘Magic Carpet’ was suddenly decorated with deep pink flowers.
In most parts of the United States, 90 degree temperatures in June wouldn’t be considered news-worthy; but temperatures this high are relatively rare in Maine, occurring about 5 days per year on average (and those days more typically in July). So, while many Americans would deal with the hot weather by cranking up the air conditioning, many Mainers (myself included) don’t have air conditioning. We deal with the heat using old-fashioned methods. On Tuesday night, even though the temperatures outside were only in the mid-fifties, I opened all the windows before I went to bed. Yes, it was a bit nippy in the house by morning; but that was the goal. By 7 a.m., as the temperatures began to rise outside, I had closed all the windows to trap the cold air inside the house. It’s amazing how effective this can be; by evening, the temperature in the house had only risen to the mid-seventies, still 10 degrees cooler than the outside air. When I went to bed, I once again opened all the windows to let the cooler night air into the house. (Most of the time, even during a heat wave, the overnight low will get down into the sixties here.) If I need to, I can turn on the ceiling fan in my bedroom to help draw in and circulate that cool night air. When I got up this morning, I closed all the windows to start the whole process all over again. Each day that the heat persists, the house will get a little warmer. Happily, though, it’s expected to be over by tomorrow. Most likely, the local television meteorologist will begin his forecast of cooler weather with the words, “Open up all the windows tonight and cool the house down!”
Our weather is expected to return to more normal temperatures in the seventies and low eighties by the weekend, but everyone has noticed that summer is here!