Of summertime, summer readings, the swimmer and the sea
My memories of ‘summertime’ have always been very much linked to Italy, where I still spend my summer, or at least a good part of it. Arguably, summer acquires a different taste, a better flavour and it gains a unique atmosphere in my country. The dry and endless sunny days, the very blue and flawless sky spreading above clear and transparent seas or majestic mountains, or simply the long evenings spent in my garden, made me hardly realize the presence of autumn knocking at my door.
As a child, I was thrilled to leave my home town and head to the seaside with my family at the end of the school year. After the seaside experience, we moved to a small village located 600 m. above Lake Maggiore, for the final part of the summer holidays. The scent of the cut grass, the sharp and crispy air, the cool nights and the sun setting suddenly earlier and earlier, took me hand in hand to September and yet to another school year. It was a ritual which went on and on for many indefinite summers.
Summertime as a young adult became the blessing of a good book read in warm and tender nights, lying on the hammock under my pine tree. ‘The Great Gatsby’ was one of my first summer readings at that age, and I loved it. Same for ‘The Beautiful and the Damned’. Somehow, I was for a long time fascinated by the decadent American lifestyle of the ‘Jazz Age’ described in Fitzgerald’s books.
As I grew up, I drastically changed my literary tastes, leaning more towards Russian literature (while studying Russian language for a while), in all its strength, power, hopelessness and longings. The favourite reading became Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot’ and it is still –to me- one of the best books I have ever read. Not the typical summer reading, but one to make you think. And quite a lot.
In growing older, one realizes that holidays are just a bonus, never to be taken for granted… Reality is different when you grow up, start taking your responsibilities and face the world. And it becomes quite complex when you even have young children to take care of…
Time is a dishonest variable. And it is no longer just yours.
Given the choice, I still love heading to the southern seaside of my country, and grab a few good books. Nonetheless, I became less picky, I admit. The most impressive, charming and yet hermetic reading this summer has been – so far- a short story, ‘The Swimmer’, by John Cheever. It was originally published in ‘The New Yorker’ in 1964. It is about the aquatic, adventurous journey of an American ‘lost soul’ in his mid-life crises wandering in and out of his neighbours’ swimming pool during a bright summer afternoon ( turning later into a stormy autumn eve). What is the meaning of this swimming? Is our life a continuous passage between pools of despair, as we grow older? I leave you the answer, and the link of the short story:
There is also a good Italian translation of this short-story:
Going now back to ‘Summertime’…It is a state of my mind, wherever I am. I was born in July and I cannot help but loving summer and the fascination of its sounds, sights, unique vibrations and mystery. The immeasurable inscrutability of sea still amazes me, especially at sunset, and it makes me really ponder upon life, in all its mesmerizing contradictions.
Cicadas humming in whistles of joy.
Crickets, at night,
Chirp their love songs to the wild.
Frogs croaking in an incessant choir
While hiding in some wet and humid ditch.
The full moon is gracing the skies.
The warm breeze is sweeping away thoughts of ice
Feet sprawling into the wet sand,
Caressing the waves on the shoreline.
A quiet and calm look at the never-ending horizon,
thread of infinite possibilities
and elective affinities.
As I stand in front of past swells,
I recall stormy hurricanes,
Which never really pierced my heart.
A tiny dingy captained by an old man quietly floats
Leaving behind a frothy foam.
Paola Caronni (13.06.2014)