Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fading Summer

Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone.

~ Thomas More

Today I sit in my garage and watch the summer slowly fade away. If going to school had any prolonged effect on me it was that it permanently adjusted the way I view the passing of a year.  I am forced by convention to follow the calendar, but internally, I still view the beginning of a year when the first school bell rings.  We traditionally mark the end of summer as Labor Day, but I think we all know that summer does not end abruptly on that date.  It just quietly, almost imperceptibly moves into autumn, unnoticed that it is gone until the leaves and temperatures begin to drop. 
There are early signs that summer has begun to fade when the sun goes down earlier and earlier, comes up later and later, and mornings and nights are cool.  The flip-flops, bathing suits, balls, and bikes are replaced by stacks of school supplies and schedules on the kitchen table.  I start thinking about clearing the brush and contemplating when will be the right time to store certain things.  Children become anxious, part nervous about what the new year will hold, and part excited about seeing friends and embracing the new.  Despite their complaints I sense that as they try on their new clothes and shoes there is an unspoken desire to show everyone how much they have changed and grown over the summer.  For them is it a new beginning. For some of us it is just yet another change in the seasons.
As the older ones have come by the studio to say their final good-byes and thank me for a good season, I can already feel the deafening silence bubbling up; ready to fill my days with long periods of unwanted quiet.  I know that I will still have people in the house and the ones that have gone will return from time to time, each on their own, but it’s sometimes difficult  to remember that when summer begins to fade.
I would never give up the way I work and live, but it is sometimes hard when your days stop revolving around deadlines and clocks, and you have to force some discipline and structure into your life, or you wind up as T.S. Eliot said, “Measuring your life with coffee spoons.” In the summer it is easier.  I measure my time by when Karen leaves for work, when the dog wants to be fed, when Meredith gets up, when I shove the boys out of bed, when I feel like a walk in the afternoon, when it’s time to make dinner for everyone, when certain radio programs or sports come on, when the sun goes down, when the tribe assembles at night in the studio, and when I am finally tired and it is time to put my tools away, to read, and go to sleep. 

When summer is over I spend most of my time alone during the day working and I admit I sometimes get lost in it.  I have to start setting alarms to remind me to eat and take medicine because there is nothing or anyone there to remind me of what time it is. I print calendars and make lists to keep myself focused, but nevertheless, time becomes irrelevant until the family returns late in the day, and chaos breaks loose with practices, homework, and all sorts of other distractions outside the house.  
This has been a great summer although it went by so fast it should be ticketed. We didn’t do anything special this summer, didn’t go anywhere, and yet we always found ways to enjoy the time. We went on walks together and played in the backyard/.  We attended concerts and summer plays.  We went to graduation, birthday, driveway and pool parties.  I got to meet and talk with a lot of the neighbors I didn’t know as well as they walked their dogs down the sidewalk outside my house. We had a couple of the boys from the tribe staying with us, which along with the people who just hang out here at night, kept the homestead hopping.  We had visits from Ben and Kayla and sometimes we went into the city to visit them or the zoo or just to stroll down through the lakefront marinas.  There was a lot of laughter, moments of joy and a few tears shed.  There was pride and exaltation; there was anger and disappointment, but what summer is complete without those elements.  It is part of the fabric of the thing.
Earlier this summer, I turned fifty and I thought it might be a melancholy event, but it wasn’t.  I spent the day with my family who I love so much at my nieces’ graduation party.   I was then treated to a surprise party with the neighbors, their families and all the people who I have coached, mentored or just been friends with throughout my life in the suburbs.  One of Matt’s friends, Pat, who we have known since they were in kindergarten gave me a pristine vinyl copy of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti.  I love it not just because of what it is but because he took the time to find and select something he knew I would prize.   Another friend, Scott, who works for a development company, and who I didn’t even know had an artistic inclination, drew a beautiful cartoon of me sitting in my studio painting a picture of my bulldog, Lexi.  He never had been in the studio before and as he looked around at all the collages, sculptures, paintings and the shelf filled with silly crap I have collected over the years, he said “So, this is where the magic happens.” I liked that very much. It was very affirming. It’s pretty hard to have any regrets about your life when you are presented with things like this.  Late that night I stood in my studio, listened to the crickets, and I thought about how lucky I am that this summer God put me in a place I never imagined being in, but am so very sure is where I belong.
As summer begins its exit for the year I too am anxious.  I too am ready to embrace the new and see what the next year holds for me, for all of us.  I see a lot of good things on the horizon.  As we march into autumn in its glory and then push through another winter, waiting desperately for the renewal and rejuvenation that comes with spring, I think about a quote I once read.  It said something to the effect that while tans may fade away the memories of our summers never will.  They will be there to inform and lift our spirits the rest of the year and the rest of our lives, not to be replaced by next year’s summer memories, but to be built upon.  I think that is a good thing to think about as this summer winds to a close.
The weather won’t change for awhile, and although the dynamic in my postage stamp of the world is changing, I intend to seriously  seize every last moment of summer I can, and then to seize every moment of autumn, winter and spring as well, making and keeping memories as I go along. Summer is fading, you can feel it all of the time, but that doesn’t mean I have to let go of any of it. It will always be in the back of mind and squarely in front of me as well.

Note: I want to thank all of you who have been reading my stories and meditations, and for all the kind and very thoughtful responses and comments I have received on this dog’s breakfast of a memoir blog.  It is the beauty of social media that I am able to get almost immediate feedback that fuels my thinking and inspires other thoughts and ideas.  I have truly enjoyed writing this, but it is time for me to take a little break so that I can more fully focus on completing some other projects I’ve been working on and kickstart some new ones. I might jump in here and there as the spirit moves me over the next  couple of weeks, and for those of you who have just started reading you can catch up in the archives, but I probably won’t post again until the official end of summer, Labor Day.  Again, thanks to all of you for what you’ve done to make me a very lucky man.  T.S.