Summer Rules by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 8.30.26 AMThe summer solstice has passed, and while that’s a bittersweet truth, we shouldn’t fret about days getting shorter. Instead, why not wallow in the sweet joys of summer? Leave your boots and parkas in the closest for a few more months and dress down—not up—for summer.

Summer Rules. Yes. Yes it does. While on the golf course the rules that regulate play may be a bit more stringent in summer, the rules that govern our lives seem to let us breathe easier. We wear fewer clothes; ice is in our drinks, not on our windshields; maybe we get away for a week or two of vacation. (As a former teacher, I know that the three best reasons to practice my profession are and will always be June, July, and August.) We savor evenings that linger long into what my Scottish ancestors called the gloaming, sparkled by fireflies and the laughter of friends talking on the porch late into the night.

Summer in Chestertown: the precious few months between Tea Party and Downrigging. The Martha White is anchored mid-stream; the tables out in front of Evergrain are full of coffee drinkers (mornings) or ice-cream lickers (afternoons); when the sun starts to set, the tables at The Kitchen, the Blue Heron, the Lemon Leaf, and the Fish Whistle are buzzing with happy conversation. Sail boats and stink pots share the river; the Packet and the Sultana cruise stately downstream at sunset. The golf course gets a lot more play when the ball rolls farther. During the recent National Music Festival, there was music everywhere, wafting out of windows early in the day to serenade our morning coffee or later to accompany a post-5 o’clock glass of wine.

But it’s not all fun and games. Farmers are busy dawn to dusk—and maybe beyond—doing the hot, sweaty work that brings fresh corn, tomatoes, and all other manner of abundant produce to the outdoor market in Fountain Park on Saturday mornings. Landscapers and gardeners work overtime. Road crews do the work of highway repair under a hot sun while the bridge gets a midnight makeover. There are summer classes and camps up at the college; Echo Hill, Fairlee, and Pecometh are in full stride. Even nature is hard at it: ospreys and eagles are feeding hungry mouths; turtles are busy laying eggs; wary deer dot the fields at the end of day, instinctively counting the days until hunting season begins.

And yet, despite all the industry and energy that summer demands, there lingers over it all a lazy, hazy, lemonade laxity that we wish we could bottle and sip on a cold January day when the boat is shrink-wrapped and ice covers the fairways and the fields are hard as iron. I suppose that’s part of the beauty of summer: summer rules provide the fuel that warm our hearts when winter rules are back in play.

So enjoy summer while it lasts, even those few dog days when we pine for a fresh breeze or a cooling shower. The raspberries are ripening on the bush and all too soon, the crepe myrtle will be in bloom. Before you know it, we’ll all be back inside, bundling up, counting the days ’til we can play by summer rules again.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

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