The late Russell Baker, who authored The Observer for the New York Times, used to write an annual essay about the fall. Autumn was clearly his favorite season, and he did some of his most lyrical pieces to usher in the bridge between summer to winter.
I wish I could find quotes, but much of his other work was memorable enough that the annual fall columns may have slipped into obscurity.
In that spirit, though, I want to try writing about the end of summer, which, to me, has always stirred up a mix of memories, regrets and hope.
It signals its approach with little things. The store ads start featuring back-to-school clothes and school supplies. Dawn is coming noticeably later and the light fades a little earlier.
The days stay hot, but nights start getting a littler cooler. The fruits and vegetables ripen and for many, it’s the best eating time of the year, but leaves start to curl and the green begins to fade.
You don’t have to be a kid or a parent to recognize with some regret that summer is ending. Even without anticipation of the rigorous routines of school, the approach of endings and beginnings both haunts and excites.
Leisure and the focus on pleasure are coming to an end. You wish it could last.
And often, regrets hang over late July and early August. You didn’t read James Joyce’s Ulysses, or you didn’t finish re-building that ’68 Duster. You didn’t get your two-mile run down to 16 minutes. You didn’t get around to camping in the Sangre de Cristos, or you didn’t make that Rangers game in Houston.
The approaching fall, though, is hopeful. The kids vow to do better in school, make the varsity or the cheerleading squad. For adults, things pick up. Better jobs open up; goals of raises and promotions await the big push in the fall. The air starts cooling and the blood flows faster.
As we prepare to put shoulders to the wheel, though, we have to get past some sadness at the end of real or imagined leisure. The ambitious among us can hardly wait. As for the rest of us, we remind ourselves that we’ll get used to it and hope the momentum lasts.
The end of summer is like three weeks of Sunday nights for the Monday-through-Friday crowd. The joy of relaxing is clouded by that sense of finality.
Summer goals are either abandoned early or get one final push. You pack up car and kids for one last family road trip and vow to enjoy it in spite of the nearness of the season of effort and consequence.
Instead of what we’ll do for the rest of the summer, the talk is about how we’ll all do better this fall.
The end of summer is a time for contemplation and reflection. It’s a time to pause, even in leisure, to remember good times and prepare mind and body for the ordeals to come.
I think our thoughts should focus on next June, and renew our hope that when we slow it all down again, we can look back in leisure at success and accomplishment.
Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org