As I write this, Santa Cruz is choking in the deathgrip of a particularly noxious bout of morning and evening coastal fog. It's our typical June Gloom—except it's now August.
It's hard to spring out of bed in the morning when there's no sun, especially in summer, when life is supposed to be one long, sunny episode of Baywatch. What color is the sky? White? Call me in October.
My husband, Art Boy, loves the fog, having grown up in the literal melting pot that is Chicago. Me, I'm basically a reptile: let me lie on a rock in the sun, and I'm happy. But lately, I've had an even bigger grudge against the fog than loss of sun. I've been craving the night sky. I miss the majesty of the shape-shifting moon on her monthly rounds, and the comforting pattern of the stars on their dance across the sky. I miss seeing what the planets are up to while the earth sleeps, sparkling aquamarine Venus twinkling at stodgy old Jupiter, with volatile Mars, glowing like an ember, in hot pursuit.
I miss them like old friends. There have been lots of scientific studies on the effects of sense deprivation in mammals. I've got star deprivation.
Remember those heartbreaking science films we had to watch in high school? Newborn monkeys were taken away from their mothers at birth, and forced to grow up in sterile, empty cages. Deprived of their mother's touch, the baby monkeys grew up surly, withdrawn, suspicious, the future Unabombers of the primate world. Even baby monkeys given an inanimate sock monkey to snuggle up to turned out at least marginally less psychotic.
The last time I missed the stars so much was on a trip we took to Sweden in June, 2005, to visit Art Boy's brother and his family. It was charming, at first, having non-stop daylight in a place where dusk does not begin until 10:30 or 11 at night, followed a couple of hours later by dawn. They call it the land of the midnight sun, but in the Swedish summer, there is no midnight. There's no night of any kind, at any hour. You can wake up at 3:30 in the morning to slink off to the bathroom, and it's already broad daylight outside.
Here in Santa Cruz, we love the sun. But our sun goes offstage at a sensible hour, never any later than 9 pm at the very height of summer. Our sun obeys that cardinal rule of showbiz: always leave 'em wanting more. While night takes over, our sun retreats to the Green Room, scrubs off the pancake, has a drink, takes a nap, relaxes. He's fresh for his next entrance at dawn, and we love him all the more for it. If the sun was up at all hours, like an egotistic comic who doesn't know when to get off, trust me, we'd get sick of it.
But the Swedes can't get enough of their summer sun, day and night. And you can't blame them; they only get about eight weeks of sun in the whole year. The rest of the time, it's as cold, dark, and gloomy as, well, a Santa Cruz morning in June.
Me, I'm getting desperate for some starry, starry nights out in my back yard. But no such luck, with perpetual fog oozing inshore like the BP spill to obliterate the sky every single night. I feel unmoored, deprived of the stars for so many weeks. Can somebody at least throw me a sock monkey?