This evening I swam in Lake Champlain, my first swim this summer. The afternoons have been hot, into the eighties and a bit humid, but the lake still struggles toward seventy. Burlington’s official water temperature today was sixty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. I have a Vespa scooter, which I rode to my favorite beach. Riding over country roads cooled me. But the water was much colder still, brisk and invigorating.
More startling than the cold water was the light. Winter remains a recent traumatic memory. Yet now each evening the sunlight delights, then astonishes, and finally defies belief before collapsing in rose shades beyond the Adirondacks. Nine PM and still light! For a few quick weeks, each evening feels audacious.
So much of the Vermont environment is similarly startling. It’s difficult to say precisely why. Winter elsewhere is colder; the western mountains are taller; the Great Lakes dwarf Champlain; Maine’s forests are more vast. Yet the elements here—lake, mountains, bleak winter, fast summer, blazing fall color—combine with unique variety. No one element is truly superlative, yet their contrasts can amaze us. So each season renews its surprises, from the grinding grey of winter to the astonishment of summer light.