Allow me to bad Seinfeld for a moment:
What’s the deal with midsummer anyway? Midsummer festivals always happen in June! June’s not even summer until right near the end! June’s like three-quarters spring! How can it be mid anything?!
I’m sure there’s some olde Norse pagan language reason for the word ‘mid’ here meaning, I don’t know, ‘to be on the brink of’, but to these fairly modern ears, mid’s in the middle, in the midst of. By that reasoning, midsummer and all its attendant festivities should start to happen around about now, some six weeks into a twelve-week season. The end of July, early August.
That’s my midsummer, dammit!
And it is the time of year that also starts to fill me with dread.
Maybe it’s just my northern soul at work. Despite memories filled with images of endless sunshine, water frolics, drag races out along old Airport Rd., I met a girl crazy for me, oh, oh summer nights, the sense of It’s All Downhill From Here begins to make its presence felt. Summer’s short, this part of the summer in particular, maxx summer, you may be able to wring three weeks out of it. Then, well, the inevitable descent toward a long, dark, harsh, killing winter that is really only darker if we insist on being picky about it. Statistically it can’t be any longer than the other seasons. Harsher? Are you kidding me? What about this humidity, amirite?
Summer’s fleeting. Spring’s come. Fall’s all business. Winter drags on and on.
We endure the other seasons to get to summer. Summer better not disappoint us. Summer invariably disappoints us. No season can live up to such expectations.
Sensing our desperation on its good graces to get us through the rest of the year, summer, midsummer, develops something of a threatening attitude. Ivy creeps into any cleft or gap that it encounters, like a thief breaking into your house. Tree roots muscle their way into drainpipes. Their branches try to dislodge the eaves trough. A double fronted intrusion. Flowers bloom out like they invented colour, as if human sight evolved simply to observe flowers.
Midsummer flaunts its bounty. Spring brings asparagus. Summer offers up strawberries and corn on the cob. Fall’s about tubers and roots that keep the meat on your bones throughout the winter. Winter gives us nothing except the prospect of starvation with a promise of keeping your corpse well-preserved until they’re able to dig a hole for you in the springtime.
If midsummer, nature at its brawniest, could kill us and get away with it, it would. Instead, it settles for just fattening us up for future slaughter. We’re lured into a false sense of security by midsummer. We work less and relax more. Ahhhh! This is the good life right here, we think, swinging in our hammock with our gin and tonics, wrestling with Wordle.
But I think midsummer’s started to show its hand, revealing its true intent toward us, us mankind. It’s called climate change. Heard of it? I hadn’t either until just recently.
These days, come midsummer, the news is all about heat domes, wildfires, storms of the century, flooding, derechos. What the hell is a derecho even? Have we run out of words to describe ‘blows like stink’? Hurricane season starts in earnest at midsummer, and recently it’s come on as if bearing some sort of grudge. Whatever happened to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, sodas, pretzels and beer?
There are days, weeks even, when it feels as if midsummer has stopped outsourcing the task of wiping humans off the face of the earth and assumed a direct role. It leads me to wonder if there’s anything anthropomorphic about the climate crisis at all. Think about it for a moment. What’s in it for us to be degrading and defiling our environment, making it inhospitably uninhabitable, threatening our very survival? Who does that? But, but, and hear me out here. Who’s got the opportunity and motive to clean the slate of a species of apex predators? The earth. The atmosphere. The climate. The weather. The seasons.
By now we’ve all seen the pictures being sent back to us by the James Bell telescope from the outer reaches of the… universe? No. The Milky Way? Our galaxy? Is that the Milky Way? I haven’t really been paying that much attention. From far, far away, let’s leave it at that. Stunning spectacles of the birth of stars, planets, swirling, gaseous mountains, bringing us closer and closer to the very beginning of time itself.
It’s hard to believe a universe so majestic and powerful, so awe-inspiring, even just the little dot of it we reside in, could be brought to its knees, pushed to a cataclysmic precipice by a little, what? Carbon? Chemicals? Toxic slicks and flimsy, single-use plastic bags. Does that really make any sense to anyone? An infinite universe capable of collapsing and expanding by its own volition gets a little cough-y after a few hundred years of a few of us burning fossil fuels?
Implausible, if you ask me. Fishy with three eyes.
The question we need to ask is, Who stands to profit most from our extinction? Everything else on the planet and, very likely, in the known universe. Except maybe racoons. I don’t think they’d make it without us.
The fact is, we are being ganged up on by the forces of nature and the universe in what has become an all-out, four-season, full-frontal assault. We are the victims here, not the aggressors. Just making our way in the world, trying to get along with everyone and everything. All we’ve ever really asked for in return is just one season of the year, 3 months, give or take, 12 measly weeks of peace and quiet, rest and relaxation, sun and fun, to set aside our worries and woe while sitting in the shade, sipping our Arnold Palmers.
Apparently, too big an ask from nature, all full of resentment and grown belligerent and violent. The world, this little once green planet third from the sun, wants all of nature to itself. No rivals. No competition. Just monarch butterflies and Coca-Cola swilling polar bears. If you ask me, the upset all started when we stopped making sacrifices in honour, respect and appreciation to the earth, wind and fire and whatever. Especially human sacrifices. That’s really when this place went to hell. Volcanos erupting, Vesuvius and the like. Tectonic plates shifting. The rains came only to have droughts follow. When we ceased offering someone up as tribute.
When you think about it, though, it really isn’t much to ask. In the scheme of things. There are nearly 8 billion of us these days. What’s a couple individuals gutted and flayed, tossed into a burning pit every year? A rounding error really. It’s probably worth a try since the prospects are bleak for all of us if we can’t somehow turn things around and soon. There will be the inevitable question of who gets to decide who gets offered up, of course. I’d suggest a Shirley Jackson-like lottery system. Numbers from a hat, that sort of thing, digitally administered, operating with complete transparency to ensure absolute fairness.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
There are other possibilities, no doubt. Alternate courses of action. Different approaches. None of which, to my mind, share the simplicity of what I’ve just laid out above. The simplicity and, equally important, the minimum degree of effort and abnegation from the maximum number of us that we, collectively, have shown ourselves to be incapable of to date.
We are at war, it is now clear, and whether or not we’d rather be down by the seaside, soaking up the languorous summer vibe, nature’s having none of it. It would rather see us dead, burned and desiccated instead of oily bronzed. So if it takes a few of us, occasionally offered up on a sacrificial slab, that may be the cost we have to pay. It is the very least we could do.