Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Standing Between Summer and Fall

Cherubs on a Seesaw by Wenceslas Hollar, 17th century
Well, here we are, the first workday after Labor Day, and shouldn’t it feel like the death knell of summer? The squeaky breaks of school buses cut through the late alarm clocks of those of us whose kids are years out of grade school, the pool skimmer basket can hardly contain all the leaves falling from the trees, and it’s time to retire the white pants for the season. Yep, enough of that, I guess.

Except it’s not quite the end of summer. In Middle Ohio, at least, it’s going to be in the mid-80s all week with humidity to match, and if the rain holds off at some point, I might go for a swim and make use of the pool before closing time. Should happen in a month or so, I fear, when that ugly green tarp will be stretched tight over my big blue water. And although I’ve started harvesting long pants and sweaters at the odd sale here and there, I’m still wearing my short pants and thin cotton shirts like it’s July or something.

I find this in-between almost-season a difficult thing to balance. You aren’t sitting at one end of a seesaw with a heavier or lighter friend opposite who is either sending you soaring into the air or slamming you hard into the dirt. You’re straddling the fulcrum with a foot on either side, arms stretched straight out as you try to make the giant lever level with the ground.

Remember doing that at the playground during the summer? You probably did it during recess in the fall, too, because it’s one of those things, one of those things that smudges the line between two opposing ideas we tend to think of as distinct—summer/fall or play/work. And then we’re reminded those ideas really aren’t opposing, and there are very few distinct lines. We just kid ourselves into thinking they're there because it makes managing our time and our tasks simpler. We know better how to think about things if we can draw boxes around them or divide them with a No. 2 and a straight edge.

We try to carve up the year in containable segments with names for each season and rules for dressing and activities for doing related to them. But none of it is containable. It’s all a big smudge, and these days or weeks defy simple definition. This morning, I discovered a quote from French philosopher Albert Camus—“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” And that about sums it up, I think, turns it on its head and smudges its straight-line definitions.

A few months ago, a good friend predicted we would have a very pleasant summer, and indeed we did. Good conversations, good food, good music, good books, good learning, good self-discovery. My daughter Katie survived living in Amman, Jordan and is now in grad school; my daughter Emily survived her first summer job and has begun her final year of college; Husband has kept his business running despite a difficult economy and morphing publishing industry; I turned 50 and lost 20 pounds and counting; and we're all healthy, family and friends alike. This next season, and the smudged parts between now and then, is just as likely to be pleasant, as far as I can tell.

Last year around this time, I wrote a poem begging summer to stick around. It went like this:

I have always said this—
I love the change of seasons.
And I mean it.
But just now I am clinging to Summer
by its ankles as it pivots toward the door
and leaves the room.
Wait! Don't go yet!
I call as I tighten my grip around its shin bone,
and it pulls me across the floor,
bunching up the summer rug beneath me,
the green grass, snapdragons and sprawled out oregano now in folds.
It's about to drag me through
crunchy leaves and spiked acorns and withering herbs.
So I plant my feet flatly against the door frame,
knees locked and jaw set,
as Summer shrugs and shakes me off
with a fling of its foot.
And empty handed, I reach out with splayed fingers,
and I shout one last time,
Wait! Not yet!
Just one more day.

But this year, I'm letting go of Summer's boney ankles, thanking it for a lovely time and taking what comes next with open arms. I'm straddling the fulcrum at the moment, but I'll be happy to slide left or right as the indecisive September wind blows.


MmeBenaut said...

I loved this even as we struggle into Spring as we try to kick Winter out the door. I think I've gained the 20 pounds that you lost. This winter was harsh but I was lucky enough to ski for three days last weekend in our abundant snow. The ski fields looked glorious and reminded me that even the harshest of winters have an upside.

dive said...

Beautifully written, Robyn; there are some lovely phrases in there.
The seasons are indeed smudged: you've had no rain, we've had nothing but rain, Mme is enjoying the snow in sunny Australia, Katie came back to the USA from Jordan's deserts and got sunburned in Texas; there's something for everyone. Let's just enjoy whatever comes next.

savannah said...

come spend some time on the plantation, sweetpea! hot, humid, and the added bonus, thunderstorms and the possibility of hurricanes until november! LOL i loved this piece. xoxoxo