Farewell, Summer

Now the mornings take on a gown of mist and the summer is gone.

I miss the long season when it leaves, but also welcome the new darkness of the shorter days. I value a different strength that arises when days grow weaker.

As I get older, it seems there is less confidence in the summer months.

No matter how hard you work, I think there's always this feeling that you’re not working quite as hard as you could be. Perhaps it's the sun that pulls that last bit of effort out of us, or the warm dawn that slows us, unlike the November cold that hurries us to our car and through the first few hours of morning labor no one remembers.

I think that heat sounds an echo anchored deep in American memory – a memory of the dangerous summer freedom.

Those of us past childhood who now rise before the sun, not because it's exciting anymore, but because it's a quieter time to worry – I think we remember the slow waking as light made its presence known through the nylon of a tent, baking sleep away.

I'd say we remember when we sat in our swimsuits in the living room, the pool still rippling through the sliding glass door in the backyard, damp towels underneath us on the carpet, devouring some meal to replace what the sun took from our bodies. Those days the twilight would last forever and leave quietly. Those days, you’d forget to turn on the lights and soon, it would be dark, and still hot. Swimsuit still damp.

Now, all of this is remembered in some tired drinking ritual on a back patio or front porch, in a twilight kitchen with cigarette smoke – blue and trying to rise with the heat of dusk. Or on an evening drive, the car working hard against the thickness of night-scent that settles into the fabric of the seats with the sound of bullfrogs and crickets.

I remember it when I stand in the backyard looking away from the house with feet planted and hands in my pockets, wondering if I could still bound over the back fence the way I used to – jamming a strongfoot against the middle crossbeam and, with two arms gripping the top, throw the rest of my weight over, clearing it in one step. Not taking the time to look through a crack or knot-hole to see what's on the other side, not bothering to peak my head over before hurling a tanned body into the wild. Then I'd make my way through the tall grass behind the confines of the backyard to the wooded meeting place where it would all be figured out, summer-blonde arm hairs catching cockle-burs, thistles and grass spears.

Maybe that's what the summer reminds us of – and why it weakens us. And why it strengthens us. It was a time when we were free to strike out to the wildest place we could reach on foot or by single speed bike and, with scraps of lumber and forest debris – build the answers.

Construct the truth.

If this post were to have a song accompany it, Air Review's America's Son would most certainly be the tune.