We once lived in a country where, people said, summer never ended.

In Belize, the temperature rose with the sun but went down hardly at all when the moon came up. January was very much like July, except a bit wetter. Some months were drier and we'd have to chase the water truck around town to supplement the tanks that caught the rain (and the red worms) from the roof. But every day, we wore our straw hats and bathing suits (the latter usable only in the hotel pool, since the ocean was full of moray eels and fierce sharks).

Orchids bloomed on door posts the year around. People fished and sailed (except for seasick me) regardless of the month. The local people sensibly took three hours off in the heat of the afternoon to eat, to sleep, to make love and to have their second shower of the day. The local women always carried umbrellas to keep the sun from microwaving their skin. Visitors stretched out day after day in the sun, turning their faces into a texture much like Mexican sandals. In Belize, summer was forever -- until the fall, when the hurricanes came. The stilt supports gave way from under the houses, like weak knees. In the hotel wine cellar, the wine bottles lost their labels and their corks, though the wine steward thriftily recorked them. Some buildings sailed out to sea. Steel roofs crashed through windows. Offshore islands appeared and disappeared. Some families lost all they had -- a little, a lot. The keys on my husband's grand piano dropped off, one at a time, until he had less than an octave to play. Too many people died to bury in this land only a foot (sometimes) above sea level, and their bodies were burned in a funeral pyre that sent the smoke of a burnt offering into the wind.

And it seemed to me, no matter what the temperature, summer had come to an end in Belize.