Once past this venerable old man’s yard, I crossed the adjacent street and cut into the yard of the house directly on the other side of the road. This house belonged to a good friend of mine, and his yard was large, square, and devoid of many ornaments and fixtures. I never felt any fear about riding my bike through this yard – it was a routine activity for our group of friends on long summer days. On this morning, though, this friend’s house was not my destination. Instead of stopping to knock on the door in hopes of starting a game of football or gaining a companion on my adventure, I moved forward, trusting that old adage defining the shortest distance between my current and future points.
My eyes were fixed on a narrow, tall, dingy house directly across the alley. A red truck and a blue Volvo station wagon sat in the driveway, underneath a basketball hoop, and the back door was shut tightly so that I could not see inside.
Once I reached the driveway, I would deposit my bike on the concrete and then walk the slender path that led to the three steps below the back door. I would knock on the door and hear the two dogs inside instantly and incessantly bark. My best friend lived in this house. Surely he would come down the stairs when his mom called his name (he was always up in his room), and we would slip out the back door, run to our bikes, and head out into the neighborhood. We might find some friends and play a game of baseball, or head to the nearby elementary school to pass time on the playground. Perhaps we’d just ride around for a while, finding new corners of the block with overgrown fields and ivy-covered houses. What exactly we did at this point did not matter, because this was summer. This was the formation of a childhood, a life. This was learning about friendship and feelings, about loyalty and adventure, about right and wrong and everything in between. And the smell of an early summer morning always transports me back to this day, to the jittery excitement of grabbing my bike and heading out across yards and into my world.
Summer is a season for the senses. That hot, bright solstice is bathed in sensory perception. June is the feeling of the gentle warmth of the day dancing along skin cells. July is the sight of trees and houses and meadows shining under the broad spotlight of the sun, the white hot crisscrossing stars of reflection racing towards the back of eyes, begging to be transformed into perceivable visions. August is the whirr of lawn mowers, the laughs of children and the chatter of squirrels wafting through an open window and filling a house. Each of these moments coalesces to form not a season, but an experience of the season.
But is it possible to taste a season? Can people smell a moment in time? After all, what are senses except tools with which to perceive the external world? To be sure, one cannot taste summer in the literal sense, the way one tastes a strawberry. But what happens in the brain when that red, luscious juice lands on the tongue, swirling around it in a decadent dance? What memories are inexplicably entangled in that flavor? On a sultry Sunday morning, the logical brain recognizes the sharp, tangy smell of cut grass. Meanwhile, the emotional brain embarks on a journey through time, not only finding but almost reliving past moments when that aroma was just one island of an archipelago of experience.
Part III Next Week