Up the shore summer was so far been little more than a six letter word about a condition so far in the past it is difficult to remember. We’re having, instead, what I’d call a mild form of Arctic life I’ll call Green Winter because the ground is covered with shivering grass and the trees likewise with pale green trembling leaves. In past years I’ve generally counted on being able to find lilacs for a July Fourth picnic. At the current rate of warming I may have to shift the holiday to Labor Day. It is a climate well suited to the dandelion; a flower appreciated almost universally by all children between ages two and five. The bright yellow head draws small kids the way chocolate and theme music from kiddie shows. Little fingers are seemingly delighted by the sticky white milk that transfers well to anything those wee digits touch. No mother will reject a dandelion bouquet. She takes it knowing the hell-of-a-mess it involves and also knowing that the successful givers of one bouquet will be out the door times to come with fresh floral offerings to replace the blooms wilted near death in tight gripped hot hands. Even under the best conditions dandelions do not stay upright for long. Barely slower than time lapse the blooms droop around the base of a water glass vase that looks like it’s holding a collection of fat greenish noodles in a ring of yellow-green bud ends.

In a spring slash summer like this one people with an eye on gardening have as much chance as someone trying to grow zucchini in a walk in cooler under a grow light. Last week’s high around my place was 52. That is twelve whole degrees above the required safe temperature for a food in a commercial refrigerator. This is no country for the tomato. But being fecund and inventive as only Nature dares we are, despite poor soils and growth stunting cold, abundantly productive in some areas. Touch a spade to earth some days and you’d think black flies were a type of dust with small hungry mouths. If wood ticks were a crop we’d be in bumper condition with the same or better to be said of the droning mosquito. The bounty of Nature not only feeds hungry mouths, it produces them. Supply far outstrips demand. There is no market for mosquito welts, but this, I believe, is made up for by the necessity of repellents. These, experience has proven to me, fall into two distinct groups.

The group favored by many is the one called environmentally and body friendly. Repellent members in this group work on the notion a person should smell unusual while outrunning the insect pests. The number of earth friendly concoctions possible to try is equal to the number of possible panaceas. My math isn’t up to the task. The sincere holds the other group of repellent options harmful, carcinogenic, dangerous, toxic, and irresponsible. All these accusations are true, which is why the second group of repellents works without having to outrun the adversary. I wonder if I am old fashioned, stubborn, or practical saying I’d rather use a small amount of nasty that works to keep the bugs off than drench myself and surroundings with gallons of fairy water. The safe emulsions (current term used to make the brew sound more chemically potent) smell so sweet I want to retch, which does, however, fit well into pell-mell flight mode needed to outpace the winged foe. A good repellent should do more than make me sneeze. I prefer ones that would kill my tormentor outright and if at all possible do so painfully that in death it emits pheromones of warning to other insect minds looking for a mobile diner.

The current green winter has given something fairly rare in my life, a “summer” cold. Whether it is a virus lingering from past winter or a new form of pox grown from unpredictable conditions the only summery part of the experience was a couple of days of mild fever and a bodily feeling of having done a long hike under full pack. There are enjoyable things in life. A summer cold does not make that list.

While in my woe-is-me state of wracked and restless nights I’d drift into semi-conscious awareness of degree of misery with elements of Beethoven’s Ninth playing in my head. I mean the orchestral portions only. I don’t dislike the chorale ending, but I’m not a fan of Schiller and never will be. Schiller meant well, but he’s too much an advocate of mass kissing for my tastes. I think kissing should be limited to where it matters or counts and not slobbered around on a mass scale. The score of the Ninth has been running in my head for a few weeks, but I think (though it is a thing not often commented on) lots of people get “stuck” on a piece of music and play it inwardly until (like whale songs) it is replaced by another. One of my longer runs ended when I was 16 and Swan Lake finally fell from my daily list. I rather liked Tchaikovsky’s music and Tchaikovsky as an interesting character, but why Swan Lake stuck is a mystery. It was not because I had a desire to join the Bolshoi. When the son of family friends declared open war rather than go to the ballet his parents took me in his place. At age fourteen a boy does not understand much of anything, so not grasping all of what Swan Lake was about came as nothing unusual. I’d never before seen a ballet, so I was curiously interested. Plus it was loud enough to keep me awake. I remember feeling odd that grown people with respectable backgrounds would think I’d have some affinity for Swan Lake. It was most strange so I shortly decided to join the Columbia Record Club offering Swan Lake. A year and a half later I was really no wiser what others were trying to tell me so I left Peter Ilyich for Dimitri Shostakovich.