For many of us, the end of August signifies the end of summer. It's September -- kids go back to school -- I guess some folks go back to work (now that's a concept...) and retailers begin to think about Christmas....
Truth is that while the end of summer has clear and distinct road signs, its beginnings kind of meander. Somehow I always find it's over before I really have thought about it beginning. So it goes.,,
One of my favorite books about summer and its rites and rituals is Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I highly recommend it, no matter if you are, like me, ending summer or if you are in a part of the world where summer and its joys are looming.
I won't give any of it away, but I will share one small piece of the book that to me sums up summer in all its glory. Listen:
"Tom," he said, "you and your statistics gave me an idea. I'm going to do the same, keep track of things. For instance: you realize that every summer we do things over and over we did the whole darn summer before?...That's one half of summer, Tom."
"What's the other half?" "Things we do for the first time ever... Thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don't watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you're doing and it's the first time, really. I'm going to divide the summer up in two parts. First part of this tablet is titled: RITES AND CEREMONIES. The first root beer pop of the year. The first time running barefoot in the grass of the year. First time almost drowning in the lake of the year. First watermelon. First mosquito. First harvest of dandelions. Those are the things we do over and over and over and never think. Now here in back, like I said, is DISCOVERIES AND REVELATIONS or maybe ILLUMINATIONS, that's a swell word, or INTUITIONS, okay? In other words you do an old familiar thing, like bottling dandelion wine, and you put that under RITES AND CEREMONIES. And then you think about it, and what you think, crazy or not, you put under DISCOVERIES AND REVELATIONS. Here's what I got on the wine: Every time you bottle it, you got a whole chunk of 1928 put away, safe. How you like that, Tom?"
Think about all the firsts. I do. My grandson jumping into the water by himself for the first time; the first long walk along the bay with my wife; first cold beer and hot dog; first afternoon of just sitting on the beach, watching the sun go down, out of wireless coverage; first storm in all its glory; first mosquito bite; first fresh corn....
Truth is, all seasons are about firsts and maybe that is what summer is there for: to remind us, to help us bottle it so that we can pull it out when we need it, take a sip or two, and help make all of those firsts as special and memorable as the summer ones.
It's not nostalgia -- as in looking back wistfully. It's using the power of what you had as a catalyst for what is yet to come, so that all our firsts are as exciting and fresh and new as my seeing the joy in Teddy's face when he dunked his head underwater for the first time and the sheer exuberance of his accomplishment lifted all of us.
"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer." Albert Camus
So there you have it -- and I'm on my way to the beach for one last day of splashing in the surf and aimless walking on the sand...and I have my bottle and stopper.
What do you think?