In Florida, the approach of summer brings a mixture of opposing emotions. There is excitement and anticipation at the prospect of backyard pools and lakes finally becoming warm enough for swimming.
There is also dread of the sultry hot weather to come. We all know that just ahead are those endless days when the temperature never goes below 90 even at night. Days when your clothes stick to you indoors and out and the sun is so blinding, the heat so intense, that being outdoors for even a few minutes can cause heatstroke. Those are the days when your car air conditioner can't seem to get ahead of the heat. It pumps and pumps but the car is never really cool.
There is a special excitement that fills the air when the summer rains begin. The lakes are low, grass and trees absolutely parched, so we're desperate for the first good downpour, and we're comforted when regular afternoon showers come to relieve the heat.
When I was a little girl I loved thunderstorms, and I still do. While other kids were scared and ran to hide, I ran to the window or screen door to watch. Lightning zig-zagging across a roiling black sky was, and is, better entertainment than television any day. And Dolby surround sound can't begin to compete with God's celestial boom box.
Of course, in Florida there's also the prospect of too much of a good thing. Tropical storms can turn to hurricanes in the twinkling of an eye. No matter how long you've lived in this climate, or how prepared you try to be, the unpredictability of it all can be stressful.
I also look forward to summer because I love summer foods. Watermelons, corn on the cob, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh peaches, and tart cherries are just the beginning. I love cooking and eating outdoors, especially breakfast. I like to sit on my patio in the early morning, sipping coffee, listening to the birds, and watching the sun come up over the neighborhood. It reassures me that "God is in his heaven and all's right with the world."
But my favorite part of summer is that it's the season when I get to go to the ocean. I look forward all winter to driving to the Gulf just to wade in the surf and dig my toes into the wet sand. I love to close my eyes and just listen to the lapping of the waves.
I like to look out as far as I can see, to where the ocean meets the sky, and contemplate the awesome fact that the portion of the ocean beyond my sight is overwhelmingly larger than the vast expanse I can see.
I like to think about all the creatures large and small that are out there, living in that huge, beautiful waterworld - from monstrous blue whales to the miniscule plankton they eat, and from fierce great white sharks to playful baby sea turtles.
I never cease to be totally amazed by the beauty, majesty, power, and immense size of that underwater world. Somehow, just seeing it again signals the start of summer and puts my whole world in perspective.
"I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky..."