Fading Summer

Fading Summer


It was hot yesterday. My office air conditioning stopped working in advance of that heat, and even now as I sit and write, with both office doors open and the thermostat set to COOL, it is hot in here. Yesterday was a combination of heat and wind that renders city living absolute intolerable. I have never lived in the city, but I have visited it on days less hot than yesterday, and those days are burned into my memory as being hot, smelly, bad. When the wind blew yesterday, it blew hot. When the sun burned yesterday, it burned hot. When the shade shaded, it shaded hot. There was no escaping it. We were being cooked.

After school yesterday, there were initial plans. There was the plan for my wife to pick up our daughter, head to Sentry for a few items, and then return to school to join me, and our son, as he moped around the soccer field for what would be his first school-sponsored soccer game. My car registered 96 degrees, and so when it was nearly time to execute this grand afternoon plan, I did what any sane soul would do, and I pulled the plug. I told my wife to abandon these plans of shopping and ferrying, and told her instead to grab my daughter from school and head to the lake. I would meet them there. And that’s what we did.

We did this because I am selfish, and I choose to grab hold of sunny, hot moments and hold them under water until they become less potent, less fiery. I changed clothes quickly, cleansed myself in the 75 degree waters of Geneva Lake, and returned to the pier to rest under the shade of an umbrella. To drip dry in the shade, with an insistent breeze blowing from the southwest and the lake all around, is to find relief on a day when relief was generally only found inside some conditioned space. There was relief on that pier, and for the hour that I spent there, alternating diving, resting, swimming, and drying, there wasn’t anyone, anywhere, who had found more relief than me.

I write that with full knowledge that 3 pm Tuesday swimming sessions are not available to most people. I know this. I know that I am spoiled, and I know that when I get to do this that I am living a truly privileged life. I also know that on Sunday afternoon I was showing houses while everyone else was watching football, so there is some poetic justice in the entire thing. More than that, I know that I had little choice but to grab hold of that Tuesday moment, under that hot sun and in that hot wind, because I know something that everyone else also knows: Our days are numbered.

Ah, but this isn’t a fatalistic post like the one from last week, not in terms of our own lives, anyway. This is seasonal fatalism, an unfortunate death that we wish to delay, forever. But this one is not so far off, this one is near, and Summer is terminal. This is why we can’t take these sunny days lying down. We must seize them. We must be as thieves, grabbing every one of them and stuffing them into our dark burglar bag. These are the days that we must store in our memories, so that we can draw from them during the darkest, coldest nights of the season that comes just after the next one. We have little choice, if we wish to survive the winter, to drink in as much late summer as we possibly can.

Everyone agrees with this, but shamefully, most will not act on this accord. This weekend the weather looks marginal, which is giving marginal more credit than it is due. The weather will turn soon, and we will shortly appreciate 65 degree days and proclaim them beautiful, and frolic under those darker blue autumn skies, and when we are warm enough to shed our light fall jackets, then we’ll say that this weather is perfect. But it isn’t. Yesterday was perfect. Today looks like, once this storm skirts to our north, it will be perfect as well. Some of us have no choice but to work today. To pull that lever and push that button and stack those TPS reports with the most recent file date facing out. Others among us will work, but not wholeheartedly, because there’s just not that much to do. If this is the case, I implore you to make plans now. Make them quickly. Drive to the lake. Jump into it. If you have a boat, burn some gas. If you don’t have a boat, rent one and then burn some gas. Whatever you do, grab hold of these waning days, because without them, winter is colder and darker and longer.

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