Saturday, August 17, 2013

What Happens in August, Stays in August

The first time I noticed August, I was in Montreal. Though I had lived for four years in Orono, Maine, as an undergraduate at the University of Maine, I never experienced August in the north country. But after moving to Montreal in July, 1995, I had the curious encounter with what I now refer to as The End of Summer.

That July had been hot and brutal in the city, with the heat radiating off the buildings and streets all night long. We lived in a second-floor apartment with no air conditioning, and with a one-year old in tow, we were forced into the behaviors of other city-dwellers: trips to the local parks to run through the sprinklers. Or my favorite: the local library, where we could hang out and take advantage of the A/C.

July melted into August, and then, somewhere about the middle of the month, it happened: the overnight temperatures dropped perilously close to freezing, and the thermometer dallied with the 60-degree mark during the day, and that was it. Summer was over. Oh, the days were sunny and crisp, with a shocking absence of humidity, but the heat was gone for the season. I had been used to this phenomenon happening near the end of September--but mid-August?

The city was transformed. People sprang to life. Sweaters were donned. Joggers reemerged. Brick buildings stopped swelling. At first I thought this was just a temporary thing, some kind of front, and that summer would return after a week. But it didn’t. It stayed cool, and by the middle of September, it was even cold. One night, it snowed. And it never got hot again. No Indian Summer, no reprise. By the first week in October, we were shoveling.

Because Northern Vermont shares the same Continental climate with Canada, we go through the same thing here each summer. This year, we started out hot and humid and rainy. By the end of June, even I clamored for the A/Cs to be put in the window, and we installed one in our bedroom. At the end of July--two weeks early--the weather changed, and we’re in our autumnal trajectory. I’m wearing a sweatshirt with my shorts, and I drive with the windows up most days. I checked someone into a room the other day, and the room felt cool--like, “turn on the heat” cool. I held my breath, but no mention of the need for heat came, and I eyed the A/C unit suspiciously, planning its removal.

And that’s August up here. It’s not hot. You’re not going to sweat more than a day or two. And after the middle of the month, forget it. It’s chilly. Beautiful and sunny and dry. But chilly. I’ll leave the A/C units in the windows for a few more weeks, and I’ll make extra blankets available for the beds, but throw a sweater or sweatshirt in your bag, because I’m not turning on the heat. It’s August, and that’s the way it’s going to be.