After enduring the hot misery of more than 35 Virginia summers, such weather still feels unnatural. Real summer means sleeping with open windows and wearing sweaters in the evening. It is the endless northern dusk enhancing long, idle conversations until we are driven indoors by annoying, invisible mosquitos. It can be lying on a blanket gazing at the moon and learning, or guessing, the names of the stars, planets, and constellations. It is afternoons of walking in the shade of cool pines and picking wintergreen leaves to chew. This year, I was determined to be up north for at least part of the summer.
Perhaps because I spent my childhood in Michigan, Virginia’s endless humid heat has always felt more like hell than summer. I remember camping with my family near the Great Lakes, collecting petosky stones along the shores, and swimming in the clean, clear water. We sometimes visited my godmother’s fruit farm near Traverse City where we would play cards on rainy afternoons and eat cherries until our mouths were red.
I fell in love one Maine summer and have loved the state since. Haystack Craft School, perched on the rocky coast with tiny islands in the distance, is my idea of the most beautiful place on earth. However, I have spent the most time in the state’s dark green center, full of fading villages and miles and miles of trees. The hard life there is compensated for by the perfection of the summer days.
I lost my heart to Finland on an early summer visit to Helsinki several years ago, and want to return to meet more of the artists and designers who flourish there. I would like to venture up to the Arctic Circle to bask in the Northern Lights (seen only once on a long ago Maine summer night). I need to return to the museums of Helsinki to visit the iconic and practical modern designs that changed my world.
Once when flying Icelandair, I took advantage of a days-long break and visited Iceland’s weirdly beautiful countryside. A walk in the cleft between the European and North American tectonic plates was a thought-provoking reminder of the slow grandeur of geology and my minuteness. What better vacation than to take a couple of weeks to travel the circumference of the island, meeting Internet knitting friends, visiting horse farms, and hanging out in temperate hot springs.
I am nostalgic and sentimental, but I have never been disillusioned by northern summers. The days are long, the nights cool and the mosquitoes plentiful. Last night as I sat with an old friend, happy and relaxed, watching dark slowly fall, telling stories, and marveling at the changes we have seen during our lives, I realized that right in that moment, I had the very best of any northern summer.
Cate Fitt, a.k.a. knitfitt, has been a member of Etsy since 2007 and is an experienced critic, curator and juror. She earned her MFA in fiber in 1978, later receiving an artist’s fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Through the years, she’s been a maker of one-of-a-kind hand-painted clothing, pottery, jewelry, and linocut and monotype prints. She lives in a little house close to the James River with two whippets named Moose and Peach.