Kittredge: Phantom Summer

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(Host)  Just a week ago many of us were basking in the sun
and marveling at the glorious stretch of warm weather. And while
minister and commentator Susan Cooke Kittredge enjoyed it as much as
anyone, she had some decided

(Kittredge) The return of seasonal weather this
week is, oddly, very welcome. It’s odd because, you’d have had to be
nuts not to reveal in the gorgeous weather we had last week, a phantom
summer of full sun, temperatures in the 80s, birds singing, buds
swelling, magnolias blooming and forsythia stretching yellow arms of

But I did not find one person who was entirely thrilled
with the weather. "Yes, it’s great, but it’s not right," they’d say. As
the blustery winds return and cold rain pelts my windows, I actually
feel as though a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Gladly
donning sweatshirts and socks, I’ve stayed inside and picked up where I
left off when the weather warmed and drew me outside. Though I loved the
warmth and sun, I had a sense of getting away with something, as though
I were being deliciously naughty. "I know I shouldn’t love this, but it
feels so good!"

I was grateful to get outdoors, rake and plant
lettuce in my cold frame in that phantom summer, but I felt like Rip van
Winkle. Did I sleep through winter? Where did sugaring season go? It
was as if I had just awakened and everything had changed so I ran around
like the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland , feeling late… late…
for a very important date.

Now, I don’t believe that global
warming is a fairy tale. Most of us agree that it’s both real and
frightening. And perhaps because we live close to the land, Vermonters
are more inclined than people in some other parts of the country to take
it very seriously indeed.

But mild winters, extended growing
seasons and violets in March are certainly seductive, and, as an avid
gardener, I admit to being conflicted – just for a moment – when it
feels so nice.

I’ve been thinking a lot about young friend of
mine who died recently, just nine months after she was diagnosed with
leukemia. She was 34 and left her one year-old son, his father and her
family utterly bereft. That someone so strong, vibrant and full of life
should be struck down in her prime leads some of us to bang on the doors
of heaven demanding answers. As is true with all untimely and tragic
deaths, there is little one can say in consolation; it’s simply not
right. It’s against the natural order of things.

Like this lovely young mother, our planet is being felled in her prime, I fear.

back to last week’s phantom summer, I now see the waving white, flowers
of the magnolia tree in the yard as flags of surrender: "Come rescue
me, I need your help."

We can’t always save the ones we love but
there are things we can do to stem the tide of global warming, to
restore a semblance of natural order to the world. As the weather
becomes curiouser and curiouser, it’s clear to me that we’d best hurry
up like the white rabbit and focus on saving this wonderland for our
children and their children’s sake.

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