Soak up the Sun

July 17, 2008 by Ellen Stimson in Politics, Summertime, Vermont

Vermont is enjoying the prettiest summer of our five years up here. We had a very wet spring and the mountains are every shade of green nature can dream up. The soil in this high sweet valley is rich with the nutrients that slide down the mountains and land on our smallholding and so the flowers are as vibrant and rich as a tropical garden.

Midsummer. For me the middle of July has always meant halfway. Growing up in American public schools meant three months off in the summer and the middle of July meant you still had as much to go as you’d already had. But now living high in the northland the shaky thought dances across my mind that it is already halfway over. As an almost delusional optimist this negative view with so much gentle beauty around is startling. Is this negative upside down view another marker in middle age? Is it maybe about the times we are living in? Or was it just a moony morning blip that should be ignored and shelved an aberration?

Last night the stars were clear and bright. We could see all across the milky way and Cygnus the Swan flying along it. I thought about the stories I know about the stars, the ones the ancient told to their children so we could someday tell ours. Everybody knows about Orion the Hunter because his belt is so easy to find. But there is also the Great Bear in the north and Pegasus carrying Cassiopeia’s daughter away as she cries on the king’s shoulder. Last night we could even see Andromeda, the galaxy closest to our own. It is two hundred million light years away. That means the little shimmering light we see left that galaxy two hundred million years ago. That little twinkling light makes me feel like maybe I have a secret. It makes me feel connected to all that has come before…

Maybe the secret is to soak it all up and hold tight to this lovely mid summery warmth and this sparkly night sky. Maybe if I can just get enough I can hold onto to it through the long dark weeks of winter. Last winter was long and cold and hard. But what will this one be like? Oil prices are climbing as the dollar drops and there is no natural end in sight. Obama offered that gas could go to twelve dollars a gallon. America cannot just keep sitting this one out. Lots of us on the left want us to drive smaller more efficient cars. The guilt over America’s excess is brimming over. But I am just realizing I sort of like our excess. I think all those SUVs are a particular symbol of America’s optimism. One of the best things about America is how big we are capable of being. Innovation is what will save us. We need big ideas not smaller meaner ones. The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of rocks and the oil age is not likely to end because we run out of liquid fuel either. My car with its multiple cup holders, phone, and GPS looks nothing like the old Model T and yet its engine remains virtually unchanged. We need big incentive programs to kindle the imagination of the inventors and the entrepreneurs. We like our cars big and our houses bigger. This is not what’s wrong with America. It is what’s right with America. We are the land of cowboys and action. We dreamed up this whole democracy thing and we can dream up a new energy vision the same way.

“Soak up the sun, dodododo “…. goes the song. These green worries give it a whole new meaning…


  • library lady

    Every time the price of gas goes down a penny or two after I’ve just filled up my tank, I want to go into the station and demand a twenty-cent rebate! I’m mildly anti-SUV, but mostly because when I get behind one in my tiny little red car, I can’t see anything.

  • Drew

    And how about the environemntal disaster of all these wars? We could drill more.

  • Molls

    Oh God.We drive an SUV.My husband is a bg guy and he just can’t handle little cars. He gets back pain and all sorts of maladies that went away when we got the big honkin SUV.
    We also have a gigantic TV which cannot be explained away with back pain
    We do like big stuff. I like this essay.Now we need just BIG tax cuts for an innovative rational energy policy

  • Mighty Morphin' Mama

    I am feeling that ‘summer is almost over’ sadness too.
    I agree, there is every reason for us to come up with inventive solutions for clean energy. Affordable energy. One that doesn’t have us selling off our once cheap food sources as fuel additives so that the hungry get hungrier.
    I would happily buy a hybrid vehicle that fit my family if it was available. Especially with some sort of tax incentive to make up for the 10 thousand dollars extra the hybrids cost here.

  • Kate

    Actually, the vehicles that are shipped to Europe get better gas mileage than the exact same models sold in the US. Why? So they can compete with the European cars. We don’t need incentives to come UP with the ideas, we need to stand up and demand that the same vehicles are sold here in the US. Don’t get me started on the government’s role in keeping the US reliant on oil.

  • katiedid

    I hate the SUV. I felt like you couldn’t oppose the war and drive one since it seems these wars have always been about oil. But I do see what you mean about the big fat optimism.I’ll have to think about this some more.

  • beesknees

    I drive a Prius and feel sort of superior doing it

  • IXL

    ILX said: have you lost your freakin’ mind, L; what we need is a $1 or $2 per gallon tax on gasoline on top of the present price and a floor on the price set at say $4 per gallon and with the tax it would be either $5 or $6 per gallon which would cause instant conservation. the tax revenues would be dedicated by law for 2 things: the building of light rail public transit and a 10 year go-to-the-moon type of research program to develop alternative fuels…solar, coal to liquid, electric cars, etc. at the end of 10 years we would no longer be dependent on oil and would have a nationwide light rail system in place…gas costs $6 or $7 in europe precisely because they fund their public transit systems with gas tax monies and while their import cost is the same as ours their gov’ts slap a huge tax on the gas bringing the consumer cost up to the $6-$7 range…we need to learn from them…and yes martha we all will be driving smaller cars unless you really want to pay a heck of a lot in fuel costs. i test drove the smallest toyota and i’m 6’2″ and 270 lbs and it was not bad at all…not an Escalade but really not bad and at 36 mpg….similarly the Mazda 3…same thing–nice and at 35 mpg hard to argue with compared to some behemoth 3 ton monster at 12 mpg…

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