Now is the summer of our discontent.
In this republic, a single state may stand alone. Debate rages about the Commerce Clause versus the 10th Amendment, but it is sometimes necessary for one state to veer from the other 49 lemmings.
Western states have a cantankerous tradition in this department. Montana rebelled for decades against federally mandated speed limits. California informed the feds that it would set its own consumer and environmental standards. And Arizona, always an outlier, balked 40 years ago at joining the rest of the nation in switching to Daylight Savings Time.
(Admittedly, some of Arizona’s more recent attempts to buck federal preemption have not been as noble or as successful.)
These examples make it clear: Washington state is empowered to opt out of this seasonal flimflam game called “summer.”
This doesn’t mean we should ignore an occasional sunny afternoon, or resist those short strings of warmish days. No, these deceptive exceptions are at the heart of what is wrong with the notion of summer in the Northwest.
Friends from other regions share recollections that seem fantastical to us.
From Virginia to Nebraska, from Ohio to Texas, they apparently have summer days when barefoot youngsters dig their toes into warm garden dirt. And late afternoons when they sprawl on back porches, sipping from sweaty glasses of iced tea as beads of perspiration drip gloriously from the tips of their noses.
Clearly, no comparable season exists west of the Cascades.
Who has not spent a July barbecue huddled on wicker chairs in the carport, hoping the damp briquettes will sizzle instead of sputtering? Or noticed their summer lawn full of mushrooms and slugs? Or turned back from a walk on the beach to get a fleece vest or a hooded sweatshirt?
In these parts, the span known as “summer” is merely a period of rising and plunging hopes, punctuated by meteorological gloom. The time has come to strike it from our vocabularies and erase it from our calendars.
We can patch the gap by extending “Late Spring” — a time when temperatures almost, almost, get warm enough for planting tomatoes — and “Premature Autumn,” a period of somewhat predictable sunshine.
But summer and all its unreliable promises must go. We should take a stand, as the actor Peter Finch once exhorted:
“I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell: ‘We’re as mild as heck, and we’re not going to take it anymore.’”
(Now, please, close that window. It’s getting chilly in here.)