the end of summer

In this illusion, the black squares are the same—the only differences are whether they touch or not, and the grey lines in the second set. First observed on a cafe wall in England. See link below for how it works.

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. ~James Dent

We’re having a couple of hot days and some heat lightening. Clearly the seasons are in transition. The leaves on our walnut trees fall early, and every day there are several of them on the back porch.

This can only mean two things: we didn’t get as much rest as we hoped for. And we didn’t get as much done as we planned. It feels like we do more every summer and get further behind.

This is an illusion, like the café wall illusion above where it looks like every brick is crooked when each of them is perfectly straight. All that changes is the lines between them. Or in this case, the lists we make. We merely expect to do different things as we age, and we have different regrets.

As a kid I might have wished I had found the perfect shark eye (moon snail) along the beach, or had finished a conversation with a girl I met on the pier without sounding like an idiot. And nothing has changed but my list. (Just to be clear I’m a one-woman man now, but I still wish I always said the right thing to her.)

I use to wonder if the end of summer doldrums, at least here in Michigan where I now live, were driven largely by the winds of winter—the realization of all the things we have to do before the snow falls and the illusion that we might have done them sooner.

But I don’t think so. I think it is the seasons of life that drive our summer ambitions, not the seasons of the year. Certainly we are conditioned to expect too much. Ever since first grade we have longed for the summer and regretted its end. By third grade we wanted more out of it than it could deliver.

And we still do.

For me, it’s the book I didn’t read or the friends I didn’t see. It’s the chores I didn’t get to and in fact the ones I didn’t start. I still haven’t cleaned the garage. And worse, I still don’t feel as rested as I had hoped. Did life actually slow down, as I had longed it would?

The fishing pier on Ft. Myers beach, where I often spent August in grades 4 through 10.
Not really. Because every day has its own list and every week its own obligations. I’ve merely worked as hard all summer as I played as a kid. I know some people who played all summer as they did when they were kids, too. But all of us had planned more than we could possibly do. This is our summer folly.

I’m a teacher, so my summer work is different. Other people have different routines or different aspirations. But we all expected more from summer than we got. And here it is, drawing to a close.

Labor Day is the last hurrah, of course. We are greedy for a final pleasure or consigned to some darker days. We work this out in different ways. It won’t be the last time I fire up the grill this year, but it feels like it. The end of summer has always felt this way.

So Friday we drove over to Lake Michigan to hear the Attila Trio at a coffee shop, friends we had hoped to see more often. I picked up some short ribs at the store for Monday afternoon. We are going to move some furniture this weekend. Katie and I will try to finish reading Pride and Prejudice out loud, sitting on the porch with a cup of tea.

And we’ve begun to build our fall list from the leftovers of our summer one. Every season has its resolutions and its regrets. “What gain has the worker from his toil?” Solomon asks. “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3).”

It’s almost fall, now. The seasons come. The seasons go.

And I’m ready for a new box of pencils.

You can buy tickets to hear the Attila Trio September 10 at the Box Factory Theater in St. Joseph, MI. (Scroll down.)

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.” ~Joe Fox, in You Got Mail

Send me your address and I will send you a new pencil. Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “the end of summer”

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