Growing up on the prairies, it was kind of weird if you said your favourite season was anything but summer.
You had the two-month freedom of school vacation, of course, but you could enjoy the hot weather outdoors, the trips to the lake, barbecues, and the ice cream, freezies and Slurpees associated with the season. Putting up with the mosquitoes and the sunscreen and/or sunburns was a small price to pay for all these benefits.
Prairie winters are basically homework, hockey and hibernation (unless you're good-natured about doing anything in minus -50 C wind chills). Springs were a bit drearier than one might expect because the winter's road salt and sand lingered on barren boulevards, plus there were more than enough times that we seemed to be on the fast track to summer when a blizzard would pop in out of nowhere and ruin those plans. Fool me once, shame on you, Mother Nature; fool me a dozen times...
Then you'd have autumn, which started with a wasp invasion and then shuffled into raking up piles on piles of damp leaves (or more accurately, feeling guilt over procrastinating raking up piles and piles of damp leaves) and the knowledge that the chill was on its way again. Summer was, almost by default, the best season.
Out in these parts, it's easy to see why folks might put winter at the top of the list, what with the easy access to outdoor adventure and the relatively mild temperatures in which to do it. Autumn/monsoon season isn't great, but instead of being a harbinger of something awful to come, the shoulder season is something you put up with for winter's glory.
Of course, as a mountain resort, Whistler is a winter draw. But talking to nearly anyone who stuck around unexpectedly, there's a common refrain of, "Oh, I came for a winter, ended up sticking around for a summer and now I almost even prefer the summers!"
In the midst of weeks of forest-fire smoke rolling in and out of the community, which now seems to be a regularity every year, it's not hard to let the mind wander—are summers from here on in going to kinda suck?
Naturally, I realize this comes off as a pretty insignificant problem in this moment when Whistler proper is only affected by the smoke from the hundreds of wildfires and not by the blazes themselves. It's awful to hear about the need for not only residents near Anderson Lake to evacuate, but that anyone, anywhere, is displaced because of a serious problem like this.
And with the way things are going in this province, with no corner of it immune to catastrophic infernos, it seems like it's a matter of when—not if—we'll be affected.
The smoke itself, regardless of where it's coming from, is at most a minor inconvenience to perfectly healthy adults, but that's not everybody. But children needing to be cooped up inside, or older people who will now have difficulties completing their everyday tasks, or those with health problems exacerbated by the smoke must be dreading the start of summer.
And that's not to mention the ever-increasing high temperatures, which resulted in over 90 deaths in Quebec earlier this summer.
Oh, and we can't forget that most sunscreens—the one major safeguard that helps pasty people like myself enjoy the outdoors—are absolutely abominable for our oceans. (Not to mention that biodegradable sunscreens have roughly the same unit price as water from the fountain of youth.)
Hell, in a decade from now, every new movie in the coming-of-age, first-summer-romance genre will either have to answer the question of 'How did these people even get outside to meet?' or be set in northern Alaska, where our two young lovers both happened to be sent to visit relatives/survive the summer. If Grease ever gets a modern-day adaptation, the revamped lyrics to "Summer Lovin'" will be interesting, to say the least.
In all seriousness, I wonder if, sooner or later, our new-normal summers will result in a change in behaviour or even a change in policy for schools. Will enough families be keen to take spring or autumn vacations to take advantage of better conditions for those holidays? And if summer will bring more extreme weather, will it make more sense to have them learning indoors during July and August than, say, May and June or September and October?
Thankfully, people smarter than me are on the case to try to keep climate change in check (if only they were given the chance to implement their recommendations) and, worst-case scenario, to study wildfires and how best to prevent them.
Unfortunately, since solutions aren't a given, let's be sure to enjoy summer as we know it while we've got it.