Wednesday, August 12, 2009



Summer's here at long last! Wait a second, this post should have been written around June 12, not August 12. But we've hardly had summer here at all. Yesterday was only the second day of the entire summer that it has reached 90 degrees or more. Not that I like really blistering temps, but we could have used quite a lot more sun, a bit less rain and fewer cool temps and clouds.

But finally, the weatherman is predicting a spate of warm - no, hot - days for us. Hopefully, the sunflower farmers can stop worrying about when their crops will flower. It is extremely unusual to see these fields still mostly green when they should be covered with thousands of yellow and brown faces turned east toward the sun in the morning then swiveling toward the west in the afternoon.

Finally, I can trot out the paintings I've saved - the ones that are titled "Summer Afternoon" or include that phrase in the title. I published a "Summer Afternoon" post last year or the year before, but still found plenty of images for this one. Obviously, artists and viewers alike are enamored by summer afternoons.

Both posts were inspired by the Henry James quote "Summer Afternoon - Summer Afternoon . . . the most beautiful words in the English language." And they were also inspired by the wonderful Peter Skager painting "Summer Afternoon on Skagen Beach."

"SUMMER AFTERNOON TEA" by Thomas Barrett
As you will see by these paintings, the phrase means many things to many people. It means many different things to me. But for us all, it evokes a languorous, somnolent, indolent, quiescent time. When I see the picture above, it brings to mind yet another era. I imagine an English country manor during the 1930s, with afternoon tea on the lawn delivered by servants and children playing croquet in the distance. I suppose I connect those two images in my mind because they both invoke the upper crust - silver services, dressing for tea, dashing motor cars, immaculately groomed grounds, servants dressed to kill, polite conversation and manners.
"SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Carolyn E. Lewis

Of all the paintings posted here, this one is probably closest to my personal experience - summer on a more rural, much less showy scale. We weren't upper crust, far from it. We were middle class in Grandma's family, lower middle class in Mom's. Whether living in my grandma's house, my parents' house or now, my own home, I've always inhabited small houses with big back yards. At first long expanses of green, the sprinkler-less lawns of my childhood would be burned to a crisp by August. But we still horsed around with the dogs, made hobo burgers over a fire pit, set off fireworks (after the Fourth, too), squirted squirt guns, watched for shooting stars at night, caught grasshoppers, picked wildflowers, played "Starlight Moonlight", walked the creosote-soaked tracks, rode our bikes to the store for pop (one for Mom too).

This painting reminds me of a photo of my Grandmother Julia, my Great Uncle Olaf and my Great Aunt Jennie reclining on the grass after a picnic not long after the turn of the 20th Century. From the photo, I know it is Sunday, for what other day would these young Norwegian immigrants have had free from their nursemaid, kitchen help and laborer jobs? Even the lowest worker was entitled to his or her Sunday rest. How long after they arrived in Canada were they able to purchase their "Sunday Best" clothing?

"A SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Herman Wessel
Like this girl from the 1920s, in her cool lavender and white dress, I whiled away many a summer afternoon reading outdoors, whether on our potato pit roof, on our concrete stoop, under the caragana bushes or perched in an elm tree. My branch was even higher than hers, and another branch served as a convenient book and arm rest. I certainly wasn't wearing dresses. More likely, my outfit was a t-shirt, shorts and "tennies" or "thongs" (what we called flip flops).
"ONE SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Dhanashiri Athavale
Everyone, rich or poor, can find a spot for alfresco dining, whether it be a picnic table, a blanket on the grass, or a dining table brought outdoors. And everyone can afford hot dogs, chips and chilled glasses of lemonade or Kool-Aid. Once in a blue moon, the Munros and the Johnsons would pile into two or three cars and travel 100 miles to a lake for a joint picnic.
Or, I would be forced to attend the Johnson Family Picnic at Long Creek Dam, where I hid in a book and tried to be invisible (the only ones I could stand from this step family were Aunt Emma and Uncle Edwin). After we ate, the men would bring out the horseshoes, the women would gossip and we kids were finally released to go swimming ("Wait an hour for your food to digest, or you'll drown!! Do NOT go near the spillway!!)
by Theresa Troise Heidel
Every group of "Summer Afternoon" pictures must include a cool blue lake. It's 98 degrees as I type this; right about now I'd love to immerse myself in its shocking cold waters. Lakes are few and far between where I grew up, but our family had a hand-built houseboat on Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan. We could jump right off the sides of the boat into the algae green but still refreshing water. For a rare treat, we were allowed to walk up to the highway to take the Columbus Recreation bus to the Crosby swimming pool. Ah, I can still smell the Coppertone, that powerful summer sense memory!

What would a summer afternoon be without a couple of children finding some water to dip their feet in, be it a babbling brook, off the end of the dock or a shallow cement pond. In dry, alkaline northwestern North Dakota, we had no such things. Instead, we would hike out to the roadside slough, where the muskrats lived, the blackbirds trilled and the cattails grew.

And then there are the "Summer Afternoon" days at a public beach - whether lakeside or seaside. The grainy white sand, the colorful umbrellas, the band shell in the distance, the flags snapping in the breeze, the hot dog and pop stands, changing rooms and paddleboat rentals. The entire scene screams "Holiday" - release from school, work and everyday cares.
"SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Allan R. Banks
Summer afternoon, summer afternoon: sinking your toes into cool green grass, shirtless kids, melting ice cream cones, row boats, summer Bible or 4-H camp, fishing for perch, Popsicles, peaches, sitting on the front porch, letting watermelon juice drip down your chin, straw hats, canvas deck chairs, warm strawberries, napping in hammocks, the Tastee-Freez, making hollyhock dolls, rubber swim caps, mom and pop resorts, hamburgers at a drive-in, the delightful boating smells of motorboat exhaust and beached fish.
Most of our summer days are not that way. Few of us have servants; most of us have jobs. Lots of you fight freeway traffic and other big city woes. Instead of Adirondack chairs we have plastic deck chairs. Instead of an outdoor lunch with spotless white linen and glassware, we have barbecues with plastic plates and cups and paper tablecloths. Now we live in air conditioning or at best venture out to the deck. Gas prices are high; vacations become less and less affordable. But for a few hours, at least, one can imagine the way it used to be: Summer afternoon, ahh, summer afternoon.
Place a raw hamburger patty on a square of aluminum foil (shiny side in).
Add sliced or diced onions.
Cover with raw sliced potatoes (skin on or off, your preference).
Slather all with canned cream corn.
Salt and pepper - lots.
Wrap all in the foil.
Cook on a grate over a rock-rimmed fire pit.


JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Ahhhhhhh summertime. What lovely pictures and lovely words. It brings back the fun of summer. Mine was quite different, growing up in Southeast Alaska - but I spent summer at a different family's home each summer, reading, rowing about in the rowboat, helping in the garden, buying ice cream at the company store, reading some more and just enjoying the freedom of being away from home.

Odette Bautista Mikolai said...

awesome paintings, all!! summer in this part of the globe had long ended. it's our wet season now and we got rain everyday. but i bet your summer isn't as oppressive as ours. however, i hope you enjoy the sun, Julie!

Rowan said...

Lovely evocative post, summer afternoons have been in short supply here too but then that's par for the course in England. Fields, woods and ice cream have always figured largely in my childhood summer afternoons and they still do, there's nothing like the cool shade of the trees on a hot day. Hope you enjoy your summer now that it's finally arrived:)

J C said...

MMM that burger sounds good, if it could be made with a veggie burger, or turkey burger. And your Summer Afternoon paintings are splendiferous! If you really, really want some 90 degree weather, I'll be GLAD to send it to you. I can't breathe it's so hot, hot, hot!!! I am just too close to the equator! xoxoxo

Annie Jeffries said...

Dear Julie,

It is so hard to decide which picture I like best. No sooner did I have an ahah moment with the first than I scrolled down and had another with the pretty potting table. Then the pretty lavender lady became my new favorite but oh, there is a pretty lakeside church.

I've been lingering here for quite a while just thoroughly enjoying these scenes of summer. I hope you will find some wonderful pictures of Fall when the time comes so you can give us such a lovely treat again.


Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

Each and every one of those lovely paintings make me wish I was out in the sunshine right now! Such wonderful and perfect images -thanks for sharing those and for reminding us we can, no matter what our financial picture looks like, enjoy dinning out doors, watching children and laying in the grass.

Have a great week-end and I remember Hobo Burgers, too!

Chris said...

I love the paintings,I couldn't decide on a favourite, but spent ages looking at them all. Thanks for the recipe I will give it a try

Janet said...

These paintings are all beautiful and your words even more so. You paint your own pictures with your words. My childhood summers were nothing like the ones you described but you still made me remember them. As for the warmer temps, I wish I could send you some of ours. We will most likely have "summer" way into October!

gma said...

So much good stuff in this post. I love summer. Even though it is hot here there's something about those lazy hazy crazy days.

Lila Rostenberg said...

What lovely paintings. Yes, we are having summer here.
I think I like the painting by Carolyn Lewis as I like to find new uses for castoffs in container looks like I would like my backyard to look! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures! You have brought back so many memories for me. Thank you :>) We lived in a small house with a big back yard that we had loads of fun in. The romantic in me would have loved to live in the 1900's. I hope you have a sunny summery week ♥

Sheila said...

Beautiful pictures and all well chosen. We too are finally getting a long awaited Summer, I hope it lasts until at least October. Wishful thinking. I hope the brighter, warmer, sunnier days are good for you. Thank you for your comment and concern. Hubby is doing well, and I am coping far better than i ever thought I would.

Ruthie Redden said...

A lovely piece of summertime, sighs as i sit here in this soggy patch of scotland, it has rained all week & its back to school today for the children, strange weather for this time of year indeed. thank you for your sunny post, i can feel the rays of warmth on my back as i read x

parasols and maryjanes said...

This is a wonderful post. How lovely each painting is and how original to have found all of the same "Summer afternoon" names. Thanks for the short summer vacation!

Shopgirl said...

Love this post, summertime is memorie making time. As a child it was Lemonade on the front porch at my Grandmommy's. Then there was my Dad who would bring home Oklahoma watermelons cold after a day at the beach. Also sitting under the melberry tree on Grandpa's old cot.
But I love summer nights watching my kids play and wishing this warm summer feeling would never end.
And now it is the sweet smell of all the flowers, and the stars so
close you might just touch one. Tonight is a full moon, and everything is so still, tomorrow will be very hot. Arney and I will sit out on the patio tomorrow morning and sip coffee and tea for me, and be grateful that he starts work on Saturday and that we have each other on these long summer days.
Hugs, Mary

couragetocreatewriteandlove said...

i sm wearing a choker today and i thought of you.
have a great weekend!

GretchenJoanna said...

Thanks so much! Where I live the fog often comes in, on summer afternoons, so these paintings are a welcome reminder of traditional weather!

gma said...

Tis me again...wondering how you are doing on this summer afternoon.

angel said...

so nice.thank you.

amoreefantasia said...

Love these images.
Thanks for posting them.