The Top of the Summer

“August is that last flicker of fun and heat before everything
fades and dies. The final moments of fun before the freeze.
In the winter, everything changes.” -Rasmeia Massoud, author

I have heard August described as the top of summer, an apt description that summer lovers I am sure cling to. Sylvia Plath, not known for her particularly “sunny ways” said that in August, “the best of the summer (is) gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” Although I do not adhere to her philosophy that the best of summer is gone, I do agree with her that it can be suitably described as an “odd uneven time.” It is still summer, yet fall seems to be waiting, breathless, around the very next corner. Some fight off the inevitable. I welcome fall.

Yet…I love August, as the remnants of summer are still available to us. There are still festivals and fairs to attend, a few picnics or barbeques if we are lucky, and sandy beach days are not yet behind us. August is a transitional month– its bonfires give us a hint of fall while we can still bask in the warmth of sunshine. Not a particular fan of summer, I am a fan of August. I can take the heat knowing that it will soon be a thing of the past.

August does remind us that time marches on, whether we are ready or not. Crestless Wave (a writer from India, whose real name is Anjit Sharma) says that “August is a gentle reminder for not doing a single thing from your new year resolution(s) for seven months and not doing it for the next five.” Somehow, I find that comforting. Especially since another new year for many of us starts in September. So, we can make new resolutions. And then break them.

I found a lovely poem by Elizabeth Maua Taylor, and it seems to sum up the eighth month quite well–ending on what could be a sad note for some, but a new beginning for all of us:

“August rushes by like desert rainfall
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
Expected,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a match flame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away.”

The month of August will fly by, especially for kids returning to school. But let us enjoy the “heat and haze of crimson sunsets”; the last vestiges of freedom; and the (supposedly) carefree days of sun and surf.

I am not sure how Canadians rank August, but I suspect we like it a bit better than our American counterparts. According to a Washington Post survey (from an article written by Randy McDaniel who likes August best because it is his birthday month) August comes in 9th. Their favorite month is May followed by October (my personal favourite), December, July, April (also my favourite as it is my birth month) September, November, August, March, January and February.

Let us enjoy this month before it “rushes by like desert rainfall.”

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Published in: on August 13, 2018 at 3:48 pm  Comments (1)  

The Living Is Easy

It is summer and the living is easy, carefree, and relaxing… or is it? Just because it is the traditional time of year for a rest, a pause, or for enjoying that book in the shade of the backyard with a glass of lemonade does not mean that the troubles of the world have taken a vacation. So, how can we take a much needed “vacation of the mind” when all around us seems to be out of sync?

A blogger friend of mine, Kathy Drue, writes on her site “Lake Superior Spirit” that joy lives in the ordinary. She says that the “world of senses, unlike the world of thought which seems predisposed to tension, often sparks pleasure.” Some of her pleasures of the senses include “lake water splashing through toes. A kitten rubbing against legs, fingers typing on a keyboard, paint splashed against a wall, simmering chili, (and) the thrill of footprints in the beach sand.”

Think about the little things that give you pleasure–especially in the summer. On the hot, hot, hot days, we find pleasure in a cool drink, a fan (okay let’s admit it, the AC), el fresco dining, and my personal favorite, the microwave that does not heat up the kitchen while preparing food. Kathy is much more poetic than I–some of the things that help her balance the unevenness of life are, “A tea date with a dear friend. Splitting wood in the shade (you would have to know that she lives in the northern woods of Michigan to appreciate this and wood is one of the ways she heats her home). The joy of summer’s freedom. Open windows! No mosquitoes. Cool air dancing through the room. A stranger’s smile. A loved one’s generosity. A new cookbook. An old ribbon.”

I think that once the snows have disappeared, and the coolness of spring is once again behind us–that we sometimes do not wholly appreciate the “joy of summer’s freedom”. But think about it. We have the freedom of being able to breeze out of the house with just sandals on bare feet and quickly donning a straw hat (conveniently hanging by the front door) to protect us from the welcoming sun. We do not need a warm hat pulled over our ears, or substantial gloves to guard against the cold, or a woolly scarf wrapped around our necks and tucked into a bulky coat. And the best bonus of all–no boots!

Summer is also a time to be a little lighter in thought–the political shows I am addicted to on CBC and CTV and Global are on vacation for the summer, and even though it is difficult, I try to turn off news of Trump’s latest “adventures”, Trudeau’s costume changes, and the world’s dilemmas. (This is much harder than it sounds–but does lead to peace of mind, at least temporarily.)

Kathy opens her piece on enjoying the ordinary by saying that “so many of our hearts seem troubled these days…we’re worried about politics, the state of the nation, the trials of the world, the gullies of the universe” but she is determined to drop “beneath thought’s volatile opinion and judgment and labeling and analyzing.” In other words, she believes (and I agree) that we have to rest our minds. Concentrate on those things that make us happy, not those things that make us angry. At least for awhile. We need a pause. And perspective.

One of my least favourite sayings, but one that always proves to be true is “this too shall pass.” Being a bit impatient, I generally want things to be better now. But things do not necessarily work on my schedule. I have found that sometimes you can facilitate “this too shall pass” to pass more quickly, but most of the time it has its own pattern, its own timetable, its own plan, and you have to let it play out. (This is hard for a soft “Type A” personality but I counter it with my propensity to procrastinate.)

List a few of those things you are happy to have in your life. The simple things. The ordinary things. But remember that you cannot discount the extraordinary or the more complex. They are part of life too– and some of those things add to the enjoyment of life. Kathy advises that “it is not about refusing to look and feel and see the woes of the world”, it is about tempering them with “softness, tenderness, with reminding ourselves of the myriad beauties whispering all around.”

It is in the ordinary that we find the extraordinary.

Published in: on August 9, 2018 at 4:04 pm  Comments (5)