When I think of summer I think of riding my bike in flip flops, or maybe bare feet. Summer is when my skin turns brown; the hair on my arms golden, barely there. It’s the season of no comb.

Summer is the sound of boats racing in the harbor down the street. It’s the cross breeze cooling things down around five and the sky staying lit past eight while kids zoom by on their skateboards until the very last minute. It’s slurping popsicles before they melt.

Summer means warm breezes, trips to the beach and bitching at each other trying to find a parking spot in a lot that’s been jammed since early morning. “Screw this let’s just go home. No way we’ve been looking for half an hour. Wait, there’s one!”

Summer is watching all the flowers I planted in spring bloom and grow, being able to give them a cool drink at the end of a hot day. Reading a book in a quiet space created by me. Seeing my neighbors barbecuing next door and all of us waving at each other with big grins. “Can I interest you in some green onions? Sure, trade you for some rosemary!”

Usually there is a trip to my parents’ farm and maybe a camping trip to the lake like when we were kids. Summer in Canada is something I look forward to all year long. New kittens in the barn. How many? What color? How long until they run towards me instead of away? Green grass and green trees and green everything. That sweet smell in the air. What is it? We always say we’re going to figure it out, but never do. It’s just summer. Standing in my mom’s garden eating peas straight off the vine. Staying up until eleven before the sun even considers going down. Always a fire in the pit in the backyard. Sometimes a cold beer.

When I think of summer I do not think of water rationing. Or abstaining from planting anything new because I’m too concerned about keeping the things already in my care alive. The word summer doesn’t conjure up images of choosing which days to water plants and which day to wash laundry.

Summer is not a string of 90 and 100 degree days that grow into weeks or watching my neighbor’s lawn turn brown and die, most of it now dust.

Summer is not seeing the face of your favorite cat friend plastered on missing posters taped to lamp posts all over the neighborhood, joining the sea of other posters of other missing cats you haven’t even met yet. Summer shouldn’t be coyotes patrolling your neighborhood looking for food because all their food sources have long since died in the blistering heat. It shouldn’t mean hours on the internet searching the faces of hundreds of cats in animal shelters for a maybe, a long shot, an ever hopeful what if.

If you ask me, summer is not when your landlord gives you twelve hours notice before listing the house you’ve lived in for ten years for sale. It isn’t entertaining interested buyer after interested buyer to make sure pictures of your personal belongings aren’t photographed for someone’s maybe purchase. It definitely isn’t finding those pictures on the internet after you were specifically told no pictures will be taken of your unit.

Summer is not a canceled trip to Canada or realizing it will be more than a year since you’ve last seen your family.

Summer is not a bulging disc in your back, barely possessing the ability to walk or talk or frankly even see straight due to pain at an eleven. It’s not learning what pain at an eleven even is or lying on the floor contemplating drugs and extreme ways out after you’ve been unable to move for three consecutive days.

Summer is not hauling yourself up and down the stairs multiple times a week unsure of whether you’re sweating from the heat, the pain or both so that strangers can take a quick peek (for an hour) while casually noting, “You do not look good, you actually look white as a ghost.”

“You’re not selling that Janis Joplin picture are you?”

Summer is learning to stifle your own screams.