🎶 Sei Calda come i baci che ho perduto
🎵 Sei piena di un amore che è passato
🎶 Che il cuore mio vorrebbe cancellar
One of my favorite songs, by Italian composer Bruno Martino, in my favorite rendition, by Brazilian jazz superstar João Gilberto, in his famous Carioca lilt that defined the genre. I love summer. I was born in the summer. My only child was born in the summer. I grew up in Los Angeles, where summer was everything and everything was summer. I have scintillating memories of escaping a gray northern winter for the January summer of Brazil. Had I the funds and the requisite stamina, I would split every year between hemispheres, living in an ongoing summer.
Notice that the Italian word for summer is estate, pronounced [es’tate], heh. Talk about a shallow orthography. It looks like the English word estate, pronounced [əs’teɪt], but is totally unrelated. An actual English relative is estuary; they both derive from a Latin root that denotes ‘boiling.’ Germanic languages’ words for the season are generally related to summer, a native English word. The Latin name for the season is aestas, which also yields French été and Catalan estiu. Other Romance languages abandoned this family for verano (Spanish), verão (Portuguese), vara (Romanian), and verán (Galician), from a historical root for ‘spring.’ We see this family reflected in the English word vernal, as in the vernal equinox in the spring.
As summer took on the historical word for ‘spring’ in these latter families, ‘spring’ came to be called primavera (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Galician), primovera (Catalan), or primavara (Romanian), words denoting ‘first spring.’ Even French takes on the mantle of the ‘first-ness’ of spring with its word printemps, from the same roots as prime and temporal. The Slavic words for ‘summer’ are mostly the same as the Slavic words for ‘year,’ reflecting the reported Slavic tendency to count years by summers; their etymology is otherwise unknown: leto, liato, ljeto, lato, летом. I confess that “Slavic Summer” doesn’t sound like a particularly good time to me. It’s not even a good band name.
Still, I suppose a summer by any other name would still smell as sweet. Somehow I’ve crammed a million best summers into a half-century of living.
Riding waves on Southern California beaches. Peeling potatoes and hiking among the hydrangeas in Portugal. Tundra jumping on an island in southern Alaska. Road tripping across these great United States. Shrimping with nets among the rocks of the northern Atlantic. Renting a friend’s cabin on Lake Michigan. Climbing the stairs to and from the shore from a condo on Cape Cod. Getting welcomely wet on a log ride at Disneyland. Kayaking on Prescott’s peaceful lakes among the granite boulders and the ponderosa pines. Barbecues. Fireworks. Festivals. In 2020 I would’ve explored Normandy and Brittany with a gaggle of word nerds had it not been for COVID. I hope summer has a lot more in store for me.
Along with its sunshine and stillness, though, summer always brings a bit of melancholy along with it as well. Vacations are temporary. Camps come to an end. The season is fleeting, and the solstice always promises shorter days ahead. This year, summer is especially bittersweet. It will be bookended by the high school graduation and college matriculation of my only child, a brilliant, hilarious, affectionate son who will study chemistry in southern California. I am elated for him, and eager to watch him experience everything that is to come. I am also elated for me, eager to revisit the Southern California friends and neighborhoods of my childhood; I haven’t been back there for nearly a decade. My best friend from high school lives about 40 minutes from campus, and her son will also be a first-year student on the same campus in August. I haven’t seen her in forever, and I can’t wait to hear her familiar laugh at her kitchen table. But I’m also no fool about the empty nest experience. I plan to squeeze every last drop out of my last summer of raising a kid.
To this end, I am planning to take most of August off from teaching, both private clients and LEXinars. I will still have plenty of work, but I want to make sure that I am as unscheduled as possible so that I can be focused our changing season. To that end, I’m going to begin scheduling summer classes on May 1st. Summer classes this year will include only June and July, possibly very late May for a session or two. I fervently hope that August will see everyone will be preparing for a celebratory, in-person return to a more normal schooling.