Warm Summer Nights, Grill Smoke, and Soft Conversation

The weather has finally finished the incredible fluctuation it began when the 7-month winter finally ended in early May. The massive heatwave, followed by weather that would have been “seasonable” back in late March or early April has finally settled into the 50s to 70s range that is common to May and early June. I miss the protracted cool period of spring rain storms that used to gradually give way to heat and summer thunderstorms, but I’ll take stable weather if I can get it at this point. Anything is better than this fluctuation that is murdering my joints and aggravating my sinuses. The poor things are already suffering because an entire spring’s worth of tree pollenation has been crammed into the past few weeks to the point that I can’t even go on a walk without feeling out of breath and developing a headache from the sinus pressure.

What this also means, unfortunately, that I’ve missed out on a month and a half of prime grilling time as I’ve had to either stay inside due to my allergies or because the weather was too miserable to be worth standing around outside. Further complicating matters is the fact that I do not own a grill, nor do I typically have the patience for grilling just my own meal. Living in an apartment makes it difficult to get a gas grill (I don’t have the space for it inside my apartment, nor do I have the desire to have to lug it up and down a bunch of steps) and I just really don’t have the patience for charcoal when I can just pop things into the toaster oven on the “toast” setting and get basically the same result.

Most of the reason I enjoy grilling is because it’s a good social activity. It is one of the few things that you can still safely do in these pandemic years of ours and it has always been attached to happy memories of late nights, good conversation, and great ends to warm days. Grilling for yourself is fine, but it frequently feels like a waste of time to me. I love cooking for other people, gathering with my friends, and relaxed hangouts, so grilling is a great way to set those up. Plus, there’s something about the act of grilling that makes it a little bit easier for masculine emotional bonding, even though the group that I usually do this stuff doesn’t have the usual toxic masculinity hangups. There’s still a lot of cultural indoctrination for each of us to overcome, so having a bit of stage setting always made it easier in the past. While we’ve mostly moved passed needing anything like that, it still has some comforting associations with past conversations.

There is still plenty of time yet in the summer for more grilling, hanging out, and chatting with my friends. It is only just the start of June after all. Depending on the weather, we could have another three months of perfect weekends for this type of gathering. Still, it’s difficult to not think about the ways the changes in the world are changing my life, especially when this sort of gathering was pretty much the only social occasion that has survived unchanged through the pandemic. Thanks to the variability of the weather, I’m starting to think it won’t remain unchanged much longer. Even without that, as the lives of my friends change, this event will also change. One set of friends is moving into a bus to spend most of their year travelling around the country, embracing a low-cost, nomadic style of living and the other has expanded into new social circles and started looking at the long future they will (hopefully) have together.

It’s not like I haven’t changed, either. Most of my change is less external than that of my friends, but I’ve also worked at meeting new people, at reaching out in ways that I’ve always found challenging, and have started to look at what parts of my life can’t keep going the way they have up to now. Change is one of the few constants in life and even though I’m struggling to adapt to it, I am adapting. Which means that I’ll keep working on ways to grow and develop while also taking every opportunity I get to gather with my friends around a fire as the sun sets and the vast Wisconsin sky settles from blue to black. Change is unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad.

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