Lazing in bed this morning — I’d like to tell you I was reading a novel, but I was actually playing word games on my phone because I may be a nerd, but I’m a 21st-century nerd — I thought “someone should write an essay about sleeping weather.” By the time I’d grabbed my favorite summer sweater (blue-and-white stripes, loosely woven, slightly oversized) and poured coffee, I’d decided it might as well be me. I think of this garment as my beach sweater. That detail may seem a digression. Or an oddity: I’m not sure there is any place in the entire United States one could live and be further from ocean in all directions than St. Paul, Minnesota (look at a map, you’ll see what I mean), so why do I need a beach sweater? But I emphatically do, in part because when I put it on, I remember fondly all the wonderful places with beaches on which I have worn this sweater. And mornings on which I need this sweater are the very best of the entire summer because they are inevitably mornings after a night of perfect sleeping weather.
Beaches, in case it never registered for you, are conducive to wonderful sleeping weather. Night breezes, cooled by the water over which they flow inland, mean you want at least a sheet pulled up over you, even though you spent the whole day slathering on sunscreen and drinking iced things out of insulated mugs and shading your eyes so you could watch the kids demonstrate their latest trick for the umpteenth time before softening the blow of leaving the beach for the day by promising to stop for ice cream on the way home. You can find this weather along the coasts of the Great Lakes, as much as by the ocean.
And sometimes, even in landlocked portions of the Upper Midwest, summer pulls out all the stops and offers up delicious sleeping weather. I’m sure the smaller lakes that dot the area, or the Mississippi River whose channel is carved through huge bluffs, or something about the jet stream make this possible. I cannot explain the science of it. But I can tell you that the sleeping weather has been sublime this week.
Sleeping weather by the numbers: upper-70s to mid-80s during the days, humidity around 70%, intermittent breezes that often pick up slightly just after dusk, and temperatures that plunge to somewhere between 58º and 63º at night.
What the numbers alone do not tell you, though, is how this feels. The air is light and soft, and the breeze has a definite-but-slight chill in that predawn hour, when you find yourself pulling your summer comforter closer over your shoulders. (You are obviously sleeping with all the windows thrown wide open, or else you are doing everything entirely wrong.) The bedroom air is cool, and the covers are warm, and there are about a hundred birds within earshot, chattering delightedly. When you get out of bed, your inclination is to put on shorts and a sweater, and when you pour your coffee, the contrast between the intense heat of that first sip and the cool air on your knees is perfection. When you carry that coffee out onto the porch (not if but when because doing so is a necessity), the splotches of sunlight filtering through your next-door-neighbor’s spectacular copper birch make a patchwork of your lawn. Fat bees fumble their way through breakfast on the bee balm just beyond the porch railing, and the hum of their moving makes an undertone for the chatty birds. Your want a light blanket because there is something far better about wearing shorts and tossing a light blanket over your lap than there is about wearing long pants. And besides, in an hour, you won’t need the blanket any more. In two, you could take off the sweater.
It is summer at its finest, the sleeping-weather period. The plants are thriving, and there are still stacks of novels to be read. The days do not have a particular rhythm, except that you can get out of bed whenever you like, and the birds will always have been awake before you, and the balloon flowers will just be starting, and the air is a caress, and there is a moment in which you can just breathe.