Summer is ending no matter how reluctant I am to let it go. The seasonal change always catches me off-guard, as emotions tug at my shirtsleeve like a teething child whining for attention.
The differences are subtle. A strange stillness taints the air and the song of birds turns into a plaintive cry. A shifting sun rises thirty degrees to the east, losing the brilliance of its more westerly counterpart. The emerging light casts a lengthy shadow on grass that used to glimmer in the fullness of summer-lit sun. A lone leaf flutters silently to the ground.
Make way for fall.
As much as I love autumn, somehow I am never ready to release the strings of summer, letting it fly away like an untethered balloon. I didn’t always love the hot months—I used to view summer as a necessary part of the year, enduring the heat while waiting for the crispness of fall. I remember being shocked to learn that my husband’s favorite time of year was summer and even asked him why. Turns out he loved the heat, the very thing I disdained.
But now I’m increasingly drawn to summer like a moth to flickering light. The sun is my friend, warming the depths of my soul. When this companion doesn’t appear for a few days and hides behind a cloud-filled sky, I feel abandoned and forlorn. As soon as it returns, I breathe a sigh of relief. I could never live in Seattle where the sun is seldom seen; I would be one more statistic to add to those who live in constant depression in that climate. I cannot be a sun worshipper either, as I have already battled two skin cancers. Instead, I am a sun lover—responding to its appearing like a bride to her groom.
I mourn the passing of summer, for I have tasted its fruits and the sweetness lingers on my lips. I find I have not drunk enough of the nectar.
We ate our weight in the season’s delights: fresh corn on the cob lathered in butter, tomatoes picked from the vine and eaten like an apple, and juicy sliced peaches or strawberries added to vanilla ice cream churned on the porch. We licked our fingers after a dinner of barbecue pork piled high with sweet, tangy sauce. Homegrown herbs chopped and sautéed in oil or a whole Vidalia onion baked in butter and salt sent an open invitation to anyone walking in the door—come join in the banquet of summer.
We spent sunny days rocking to the rhythm of lazy porch fans. I cherished the cool of the morning as I tended my garden, with hat and cotton gloves in hand. Our ears perked up at the crack of a watermelon, sliced open in all of its ruby glory. The sound of children, carefree in the backyard, beckoned me outside again as the setting sun cast a crimson glow over the trees. Lightning bugs blinked in soundless syncopated symphony, charming even the hardest of hearing among us. We moved to the music, our toes tapping in spite of ourselves.
When I was a young mother, the changing seasonal march was hardest to accept. Unstructured days gave way to fast-paced scheduled lives, affecting us all. Part of me rejoiced; part of me lamented. I hated giving my children up to the school year, but was relieved to no longer be their sole teacher responsible for every minute of the day. Our classroom was earth and sky as we frolicked in sparkling pools, shaded parks, and pine straw paths. Now my sprites of summer sat in straight-backed desks surrounded by beige walls.
A poem I penned at this time of my life says it all—
I am sweeping summertime out of my rug
Sending the remnants to a dusty death—
Clearing a clean path where sandy footprints lingered,
Tossing out hidden summertime treasures.
A potato chip bag beneath the cushions remains a secret no longer
Along with gooey Popsicle sticks and rounded pebbles discovered at the creek.
Summertime beckons in the sunshine
Not dying at September’s appearing,
Holding out for more carefree days
[I must add— carefree for children, not for mothers.]
So I sweep summertime out the door
Thankful for days that bestowed
Fishing and creeking
Swimming and pretending
Bicycle riding and running barefoot.
I pray summer’s memories will whisper to my little students
Shuffling papers and books
Sitting long hours in one room
Lugging backpacks and lunch boxes behind them.
This year, as always, I floated in the lake and performed a “last rite of summer.” No wind moved my raft. The water, warm beneath me, felt as if I lay in a heated tub. I attended to every nuance of sun, wave, and warmth as I lay on a plastic float. Then I spoke a silent farewell to the season.
“Goodbye summer, it’s been great. See you next year.”
I will not submerge in the depths until the following May. Diving in once again, I'll open wide to summer.