When summer opens, I see how fast it matures, and fear it will be short; but after the heats of July and August, I am reconciled, like one who has had his swing, to the cool of autumn.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every year, August lashes out in volcanic fury, rising with the din of morning traffic, its great metallic wings smashing against the ground, heating the air with ever-increasing intensity.
"All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world."
― L.M. Montgomery,
Where do you come down on August? Thumbs up or thumbs down? Does turning the page fill you with foreboding? Or regret? Do the days of August flutter away into the haze as the Monarch butterflies migrate? Or do you feel trapped, cramped, imprisoned by heat, humidity, insects, or regret for the promises of summertime unfulfilled? Is Nature's bounty a cornucopia of tasty treats to be savored fresh today and preserved for the cold days tomorrow? Or do you avert your eyes from the jungle of foxtail, bindweed, grasshoppers and assorted crawly beasties that used to be characterized as a garden? Do you anticipate the broadcast of your favorite baseball team...or have pre-season football rankings captured your allegiance?
Like Janus, August is two faced, a time of beginnings and transitions, of doors and gateways,of change. August has one foot in the door of summer and one on the steps of fall.
A quick trip through Augusts past confirms these dual personalities:
Following the fairs..and the conclusion of projects four-legged and not, August is a time for vacations, for seeing America, for keeping cool, for catching up with friends and family far away, for one last hurrah before school bells ring.
It is the month of farewells...as sons and daughters go back to college...or leave home for the first time.
August is a month of storms. When we first came back to farm, we'd watch the weather map anxiously, waiting for a Gulf Coast hurricane to come up from the south, break the July drought, and give our soybeans a good soaking. More recently, August has blown in violently with destructive winds flattening the ripening corn and turning the mum patch into a tedious game of 5000 pot pickup. August giveth and August taketh away. August can be synonymous with catastrophe.
But August can be a time to gather as well. To dig and dry the onions when the ground softens. To take advantage of all the ways that tomatoes can be canned. To choose the magic moment for picking grapes for jam that glows in a jar like the visual essence of summer. For eating apples off the tree while we water, grabbing a half dozen to bake the first new crop apple loaves, setting aside a half bushel in the 60 year old frosty refrigerator to use til the winter apples come in.
August is a month of cakes and celebrations. If we all lived closer together, we would barely finish one round of desserts before we would blow out the candles on another one with three birthdays in ten days. Levi's birthday starts the birthday fortnight, a continuing feast of thanks for him, for Ben on the 15th and for Matt on the 20th. August: a month of new lives and new beginnings in our family.
If you are country people like we are, August brings a new school year. The kids have gotten their letters in the mail assigning them to their new classes in their new grade. The school supplies await in plastic bags and almost everyone needs new tennis shoes and jeans. Aaron and Matt start EA football practice and Lee will drive Gabe over to Burlington Junction to learn the ropes of flag football. Abbie and Lizzie sign up for the fall's dance classes with Miss Annie. Josh will start back to Honeytree. No more kids' laughter at the pool, no more wet towels and swimsuits for the puppies to chew through at the farm. Summer may not end with the advent of school, but the swimming season does.
Bring on September!