Lazy. Hazy. Crazy. Summer, of course. Officially two weeks old now, but already past the July 4 milepost. In six weeks we'll be sick of it. In eight weeks we'll be memorializing it, ticking off all the things we forgot to do as Labor Day looms.
Two more months to melt in the heat and surrender before the air conditioner. Only two months to hit the beach, to slurp a snowball, crack a crab's claw, nap in the shade, lose track of time while a summer-still day oozes by. To bite into a nectarine and let the juice dribble down your chin. What's your pleasure? As the old song says, the summer knows.
Blazing a trail
It is an early summer morning. That time of day when mist clings to the trees and a cool breeze caresses your face.
You're in a place where nature, in all it's wild, wonderful green glory, surrounds you. The sounds of water splashing over rocks provides a lovely serenade. Three words come to mind: "On your left!"
It's the Northern Central Railroad Trail, a small slice of heaven in northern Baltimore County for cycling, walking, jogging, horseback riding, bird watching or just sitting on a bench and contemplating the meaning of life.
This little bit of heaven can get a little crowded. In fact, there were 444,642 people on the NCR trail in 1996, says the Department of Natural Resources. That's why the most uttered phrase on the trail is "on your left," the mantra of people passing people.
But don't despair. The trail, from Ashland in the south up to the Maryland state line, runs more than 19 miles, with long stretches where you might not see a soul except for a surprised deer.
That's when you can let your mind drift, recalling the days when Northern Central Railroad trains steamed through here on their runs from Baltimore to York, Pa., from 1838 to 1972. They hauled farm products, coal, milk and mail. During the Civil War, they took Union soldiers south. Abraham Lincoln was on board for his historic trip to Gettysburg.
Now it's a popular escape from urban and suburban sprawl. A multiuse trail since 1984, it's a 10-foot wide, almost level stretch of crushed, packed stone. There are stores along the way and, thank goodness, "comfort stations." And it's trash free -- whatever you take in, you take out.
So go. Enjoy. Work up a sweat or do nothing at all. And remember: "On your left" will get you far. The boy fingers the barrel of the XP65, nodding his carrot-topped head in appreciation. "This is the one," he says. "It's got great range."
T.S. Wadsworth, 13, knows guns. He's played with them most his life, starting with the hand models and working his way up to the more powerful ones with high-pressure chambers. His current piece is bright orange and "makes a weird noise" every time he fires it.
But he'd rather have something along the lines of the XP65. Despite its compact size, it'll hit a target some 65 feet away (hence the name). And it doesn't cost too much -- only $8.97 at the White Marsh Walmart.
Wadsworth is here today because it's summer, the season in which water's the ammunition of choice. For generations, kids like Wadsworth have fought water wars from the time their tiny fingers could pull a plastic trigger.
Recent advances in water weaponry have revolutionized the sport. Army-green Water Grenades -- $1.96 for a pack of 36 -- put plain old water balloons to shame. Next to big guns like the Spiral Liquidator, which shoots two twisting streams up to 50 feet, or the Super Soaker Pool Pumper, which will empty the entire swimming pool on an enemy, the dime-store squirt guns of yesteryear are all wet.
But while the armament has changed, the game seems to stay the same. Wadsworth and his clan, a co-ed group ranging in age from 10 to 16, organize massive water wars "a couple of times" each summer in their woodsy neighborhood in Butler.
Teams are chosen, secret forts are established -- at least they're supposed to be secret.
"They usually find it within 10 minutes," Wadsworth says. "But that's not really the point. The point's just to get wet."
Lara M. Zeises
Clapping for thunder
The apartment deck in Annapolis makes a fine vantage point for the grown-up who was the strange little boy who loved thunderstorms, who rushed to the attic to raise the window high and lean out into the rushing air, peering up into the rolling belly of a cloud. Perhaps his parents worried.
After all, kids are not supposed to relish dark clouds or greet the arrival of a storm as if it's Christmas morning. They're supposed to love sunshine. And most of all, they are supposed to love summer. Doesn't everybody?
High on the boy's list of summer joys was the thunderstorm. Decades later, the grown-up agrees.