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A Northern summer requires a different calendar

The people who designed the calendar with four seasons, each three months long, lived in a much more temperate place than here
Walt Humphries Tales from the Dump column standard for Yellowknifer

“Are we there yet?”

If you have ever taken the family for a drive, sooner or later one of the kids is likely to ask that question. This year, I am sure some kids and adults are asking, “When does summer start?”

You might think that this is a simple question to answer but are we talking about meteorological, astronomical, solar, dog days, cat days or a Walt’s Way summer.
To me summer starts on the first day that I can get up in the morning, put my shorts on and then wear them all day, and most days until fall arrives.

The only real trouble with this criterion is that as I get older, I am not as active as I used to be, so the summers are getting shorter. Some people may argue that my method is not science-based but it is practical, and it works for me. Also, I only count shorts days as summer days, so each summer has a different length.

The solar summer is based on the amount of sunlight the Earth gets and summer is May, June and July. Meteorological summer is based on our annual temperature cycle and runs June, July and August, and so June 1 was the first day of their summer. Astronomical summer is based on the Earth’s position to the sun and this year starts on Thursday, June 20 at 4:50 p.m. but many, including calendar manufacturers, will call June 21 the first day of summer. 

So, depending on which group of climatologists and scientists you want to follow, summer starts May 1, June 1 or June 20 or 21. Now, there is also something called the dog days of summer, which is based on the position of the star Sirius, the brightest star in sky. So, the dog days of summer run from July 3 to Aug. 31. Personally, I think we should also have the cat days of summer. They start the first day your cat wants to be outside all day and ends the first day in the fall or early winter when your cat no longer wants to be out but turns around and comes right back in, pawing the door and meowing loudly, “Let me in!”

There are lots of other ways to calculate summer. You could have joggers’ summer, which is the first day you see someone in shorts and a muscle shirt or tank top jogging around the loop. Then there is patio summer, which starts the first day that people want to sit outside on the patio. There is forest fire summer, which starts when the first new forest fire in the territory starts, or how about mosquito summer that starts and ends with the first and last mosquito bite you get.

There are many ways to define summer or events that could be used to mark the beginning of summer. I have some poppies in the garden, and they are amazing plants. It seems that as soon as the snow goes, they green up and start to grow. Then the poppy heads appear and when they straighten out into the sun and bloom, that is a sure sign that summer has arrived. Some years in the North we have glorious summers, other years not so much. So, we need to try to make the most of what we have.

It is obvious that the summer we get in the North is different and shorter than the summer they get in Toronto or in Miami. So, our dates or markers for summer should be different just as they are different for the Arctic coast. 

The people who designed the calendar with four seasons, each three months long, lived in a much more temperate place than here. So maybe we should rethink the whole thing and come up with a calendar and seasons that better reflect our conditions. 

It’s the season of wildflowers now, so get out and enjoy them.