There is nothing like the sound of an overnight summertime rain tapping on the roof. After a beautiful sun-drenched weekend, you can lie in bed and listen to the raindrops pounding on the shingles and running off the sides of the house, recharging the gardens and refilling the water table and (assuming you remembered to close all the car windows) feel that all is right with the world. When all of this takes place while we’re lying in bed, we don’t lose out on a minute of enjoying our all-too-brief but spectacular summer.
This year’s winter was so cold and seemingly endless that it actually was possible to forget what summer warmth could feel like. For the first time I can recall, people I know who consider themselves die-hard Central New Yorkers were heard whispering of kinder climes. But all that is past us now as we enjoy our reward in one sun-kissed weekend after another. It’s as if we are more determined to enjoy this early summer warmth because of what we went through in February and March. It’s like we earned it. Bikers peddling, brides blushing, guys grilling, little kids freed from snowsuits running around in shorts — there’s a happiness in the air that I can only attribute to this season of strawberry delight. Is it just me, or does the ice cream even taste better this year?
I will put our Central New York summers up there with those of anyplace in the nation. Yet if you travel or talk to people from other regions, most of them think that we live in a perpetual blizzard. Syracusans, the common myth goes, spend six months of the year shoveling their way to the Carrier Dome. That’s it. There’s got to be a way to let the world know what a gorgeous display nature puts on for us once the snow melts away.
The problem is that every year we bring tens of thousands of students to town for the harshest part of the year. They spend the winter hunkered down and gritting their teeth as they dodge snowbanks and lake-effect squalls. Then, just before the summer breaks loose, we discharge them back to their parts of the world shivering with slush-filled Uggs and tales of snowplows large enough to bungee jump from. They know nothing of JazzFest or the state fair or the magic of the Finger Lakes. It’s as if the roses at the Mills Garden in Thornden Park send scouts across Ostrom Avenue to wait until the last dorm room has emptied before they burst into their full magnificence.
This student body leaves the Salt City learned in many respects, but completely ignorant of the pleasures to be found in our sweet, sweet summers. Their exodus creates an image problem for us that no amount of “New York’s College Team” banners at Yankee Stadium will help us to reverse.
What we need to do is to persuade the new chancellor at SU, Kent Syverud, to reconfigure the academic year. Word from some on the hill is that the chancellor shares little of his predecessor’s enthusiasm for spending university resources on economic development in town. So here’s an idea that would cost nothing, but would dramatically reshape the world’s vision of Syracuse: Start the school year just after St. Patrick’s Day and end it just before Christmas.
Have the college students enjoy their Central New York summer and then go home before the worst of winter hits. As the years go by, we would be building a cadre of ambassadors who talk of Syracuse as this place of endless festivals, rippling sunshine and non-stop outdoor fun. “But doesn’t it snow there?” their friends will ask. “I hear some of the local people talk about that,” they will say, “but I haven’t really seen it.”
We can all breathe a little easier now that summer is here. There are lots of reasons to make sure you really enjoy this season, which we earned by gritting our collective teeth through a nasty, cold winter.
Just in case you needed any extra motivation to get out there and enjoy it, here are a few thoughts to get you out the door:
With all the tensions in our city schools in the spring, we all should be grateful for a break. There can’t be violence and discord in the classrooms when school is out. And you can’t be suspended during summer break. Just be careful at those board meetings.
If you go for a ride in the country, you can still see pristine hillsides instead of drilling rigs. Nobody is hydrofracking the Finger Lakes … yet. So far, there is a moratorium on the use of large quantities of water and chemicals to blow holes in the Marcellus and Utica shales extract natural gas.
Come November, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo is likely to be re-elected (my apologies to Howie Hawkins), he will finally loosen up and tell us what he really plans to do on the fracking issue.
Meanwhile, make sure you enjoy every rural vista you come upon and every quiet lakeside moment this season. Whatever upside that fracking advocates envision, there is no doubt that if the practice becomes widespread (more likely in the Southern Tier than in our area), there will be some eyesores where now we behold loveliness.
In summertime, it’s easy to see why fracking is such a bad idea. When it’s 20 degrees, fracking opponents will have to explain where in the world we will be getting the fuel we need to keep warm.
Completing the Thought
Last week’s note about bicycle safety included a quote from Steve Adkisson, of University Hospital’s Trauma Unit, a nurse and paramedic who has seen way too many brain injuries caused by accidents in which a bike rider was wearing no helmet (or wearing it improperly). A piece of Steve’s quote was cut off; we thought it worthy of reproducing here.
“To those who wear helmets, thank you. And to those who don’t, please!”
The trauma team at Upstate will be fitting youngsters for helmets and providing them free of charge at the state fair again this year. But don’t wait for August; that’s too many miles away. For $10, you can get a helmet today. Call the trauma unit at 464-4773.
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