Tuesday Obituary: Summer

Tuesday Obituary: Summer
Artificial flowers and fruit - Museo Diocesano (Genoa). Photo by Daderot via WIkimedia Commons.

by Sahar Tavakoli

Don’t let the sun go down on me: Summer has come to a close across the northern hemisphere, aged 95 days. Born on June 21, 2023, it sank into Autumn on September 23.

Long days leave long shadows and Summer of 2023, in Milan at least, seemed forever cast in shady différance to the estival nightmare of the year that preceded it. Summer 2022 was, quite frankly, revolting. It usurped the Spring’s claim to March, April, and May, appearing suddenly and rudely after an otherwise seasonal Winter. Its humidity never gave way to rain. In the Po Valley, fields cracked and salt percolated out of the soil like some sort of Biblical punishment. The mosquitos that 2022 birthed stuck around until November. I shaved my head hoping that any uninterrupted breeze on my scalp would draw out heat like a walking, talking qanat.

Summer of 2023, by contrast, was bliss. On its hottest days, those few who had not left the city would greet each other by agreeing that it was indeed, quite hot, but always with the added clarification that it wasn’t as hot as last year. That is, occasionally molto but never troppo. One had the sense that they were throwing last year’s valley-salt over their shoulder. This was a kind summer. It blew in at the appropriate time, just as the cottonwood snow was blowing out. Its flying insects were manageable. But its greatest gift was undoubtedly its fruit.

In the Marvdasht plains of the Iranian Plateau, encircled by the Zagros mountain range, is a lion who, for some 2500ish years, has been biting down on a bull’s rump. Depicted in bas-relief on the northern part of Takhte Jamshid’s eastern stairs (‘Persepolis’ if you’re this guy), it is a motif that had been kicking around for a few millennia before this particular big cat took its big chomp. The zodiac that had been mapped by Sumerian astronomers somewhere in the range of 3000 BCE recognised the lion as the sign of summer. It is the only zodiac to be ruled by the sun, and its house takes one full season to cross. Having been born under this sign, I spent my summer true to my leonine kin: with my teeth sunk into a peach.

Italian peaches are absolutely bananas. Freestone or cling, saturnian or spherical, blushed white or golden, all require their consumer to fold over at the waist, torso parallel to the earth upon which they will soon be spilling juicy tribute, and an ad hoc wudu in which one licks their hands, wrists, and forearms clean. There were no peaches to be found at my local market this morning. At one point I thought I spotted a glossy stack of their bald cousin, the nectarine. On closer inspection they were sour persimmons.

Summer is survived by late season plums and by a jar of peach compote in my refrigerator.

Sahar Tavakoli writes The Stopgap’s late news (10 letters). 

Tip Sahar Tavakoli