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Kittredge: Phantom Summer

03/30/12 7:55AM By Susan Cooke Kittredge
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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 reservations.

(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 joy.

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.

Looking 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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