Saturday, April 30, 2011


When I was a child I was taught there were four seasons which were formally introduced as Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  Spring was always depicted as having birds and flowers and beginning in April.  Summer had a bright sun and started in July.  Fall showed colorful leaves swirling in a breeze and began in September.  Winter showed snowflakes and started in December.  It was all very colorful, precise and very wrong.

Living on the gulf coast of Texas for most of my life has given me a different perspective of seasons.  This thing called Spring.  I guess you could say we get that, but it typically occurs sometime in late February or early March.  There will be very nice sunny days and temperatures in the 60s and 70s with the nights dipping down into the 50s.  It is grand and usually causes me no end of gardening fervor.  Life is great, I have boundless energy and many, many projects get accomplished.  There are no mosquitoes, no bugs and every day is a joy.  This lasts approximately two weeks or less.

Then comes April, which begins to behave in a very bipolar way.  Some days it is springlike and others have highs in the 90s with 90 percent humidity.  Often in April there will begin a series of torrential rains that continue into May.  These rains will make the ground a bog and cause two different reactions in the garden.  Reaction one is that certain plants will grow like mad and escape any restraints or trellis.  They cannot be brought under control because to do that I would have to wade into a quagmire to get to them.  Reaction two is that the plant drowns.  There is nothing I can do for them so I usually end up standing by their corpses and apologizing for having put them in a swamp.

With all the torrential rains come the mosquitoes and an oppressive humidity that makes me fear I will contract either a mosquito born illness or parts of my skin will begin to rot from the constant moisture.  From May into June there is a sense of dread that becomes stronger and stronger.  Even if there is a rare day where the temperatures are reasonable I cannot enjoy it.  Summer is taking over.  Every year I go through the stages of grief about it.  Denial - "It is still Spring.  It isn't that hot yet and perhaps this year it won't get too hot."  Anger - "Why in the hell do I have to live in this God forsaken part of the world where the Spring is so short and the Summers try and kill me?"  Bargaining - "Just let there be one more week of reasonable weather, just one more week and I will do every house repair and garden improvement known to mankind."  Depression - "This will be the year the summer kills me.  Why bother even getting out of bed.  Spring is over and there is nothing but relentless heat and humidity for the rest of my life."  Acceptance - well, I actually never seem to reach this stage, I just cycle back through the other stages.

Once Summer begins it takes a choke hold and lasts well into September and often into October.  Hell, it may not give up.  There can be 90 degree weather in December.  Summer daytime temperatures can remain in the high 90s to 100s but the worst is that the night time temperatures will stay in the 80s.  No, let me correct that.  The worst is that the humidity stays at 80 percent or higher.  There is no adult human that can endure this kind of torment for very long.  For example, I know that the Native American people that lived along the Gulf coast, the Karankawas, were purported to be cannibals.  That's what the heat, humidity and mosquitoes can drive you to do.  Thank God for air conditioning.  Even with the AC, indoor temperatures usually stay close to 80 in my house.  I become an indoor creature as opposed to the sun as any nocturnal animal.  Sleep becomes a challenge due to the necessity of having several fans blowing on me at all times.  The fans make it bearable but a combination of fan and AC can actually make it too cold which will cause me to pull up a sheet.  This will then make it too hot so I will kick off the sheet.  So sleep in the summer becomes much more athletic.

Then comes August.  It deserves its own separate season designation so I am crowning it Mega-Summer.  Take everything that is bad about summer, notch it up by about 20 degrees and then let it go on and on and on.  I swear that there is some time distortion in August that gives it far more than its 31 allotted days.  Forget about the garden.  Every year at the start of Spring, in some sort of amnesic delusion, I vow to continue to garden throughout the summer.  I will water every day.  I will tend the plants.  Every year I give up completely in August.  Why bother watering when the air temperature actually cooks the plants as they stand.

As far as Fall is concerned I am not sure I have ever experienced it.  Supposedly, I have read and seen on TV, there is this time where the temperatures cool off, the leaves on the trees change color and people ride hay wagons.  Not here.  Yes, occasionally we will have a few days where the oppressive Mega-Summer heat ceases and I will emerge from the dim recesses of my AC environment to blink like a cave creature dazzled by the sun.  Usually though we go from one extreme to the other with a temperature drop of over 40 degrees in a single day.  Forget about the leaves changing colors, they just fall off the tree in blackened clumps.

We do have Winter, but it doesn't usually arrive on time.  I think I look forward to winter the most so that I can wear my winter wardrobe which consists mostly of shirts with long sleeves.  These clothes are so seldom worn that they last for years and years.  Once Winter decides to get here it is not as cold as some places, but it manages to combine some of the most uncomfortable seasonal characteristics without any charm.  Snow is something we might have every decade or two but we do have cold rain, bitter winds, high humidity and mud.  When it does drop below freezing - good luck traveling on any of the roads.  There will be ice on bridges and overpasses and a tremendous number of drivers completely out of their element merrily slamming into one another.  Even if the city wanted to sand all the roadways it is not like they have the equipment necessary to deal with the hundreds of miles of city streets. 

Sometimes I fantasize about living where there are four seasons, where everything happens by the book in proper order.  Until then I will just have to keep enduring Short-Spring, Summer, Mega-Summer, Virtually Non-existent Fall and Winter.

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