Tuesday, August 27, 2013
I am disturbed by August and late Summer. My mood is impacted by a feeling of loss. I'm saddened to see that, other than sunflowers, most wildflowers, whose appearance had so recently gladdened me, have died off. In their place, shriveling brown stalks stand silently like hopeless indigents on crutches. No longer begging for sunshine nor even thirsting for water, these once lovely plants have reached their end, the waned essence of Spring mouldering in a tattered shroud of torn petals and wilted leaves. The few remaining flowers will also soon succcumb to the relentless attack by rapacious bugs, weeds, and heat. I will have to accept the fact that most visually exciting, fragrant and freshest time of year is over.
No less disappointing for me is the similar demise of my favorite rivers, creeks and lakes. Like a mad cook who works too many hours, the sun has become an obsessive baker, leaving the temperature on High, and overheating the pot. This causes the water level to drops and the fresh, cool, clear broth to become tepid. Where once, around wet, moss-ringed boulders, white water rushed noisily, and behind which, hungry sassy trout snapped at passing morsels, now languid pools form. Favorite jagged points, from which I had cast upstream and watched my fly and line drift by, are now the detritous of dull sand bars.
The fate of lakes has taken an equally unfortunate turn as well. Beaches now appear at shores that had been previously braceleted by charm ornaments of lilypads, cattails, submerged shrubs, and glistening moist tree trunks. Into this garden, I would launch my pontoon boat, peer down through crystal clear water to spy on the magical underworld and then push out into the open. It was quiet and comforting to pay out sinking line, retrieve slowly and wait for the tug to thrill me.
Likewise, Summer means my quest for such joy is interrupted by the influx of tourists. It brings with it a cacophony of barking dogs, shrill children, the hum of generators, the slamming of RV doors, the chatter of outboard motors and the splashing wake of numerous boats transporting the loud voices of inexperienced fishermen and kayakers. These sounds fly across the water great distances like an invasion of winged insects and even swoop down into secluded coves to mix with the osprey's call or the crow's caw to disrupt the tranquility of what had been my personal aviary.
A lengthy series of hot sunny days has transformed the woods as well. Yesterday, I hiked for several miles on a recently blazed trail through a mixed pine forest which was interspersed with bitterbrush and mounds of volcanic rock. The dust from the path, like flecks from disintegrating calendar pages, had filled in once fresh, moist, deer tracks and had left only faint silhouettes of halcyon days. A greyish brown sheen covered many of the adjacent rotting logs and stumps, giving the impression they were the crusted remains of unearthed mummies. Loping through this parched environment, I neither saw nor heard any living beings the entire time of my walk other than being occasionally startled by scurrying jaw-packed chipmunks. They, like me, but for different reasons, were already thinking and planning for the coming of Fall.
When I was young, the approaching Labor Day holiday portended a star-crossed future. The coming of Fall meant an ominous return to the classroom. Each year, the appearance of late Summer "Back-to-School -Sale" signs sprouted fears of academic inferiority and social conflict which since early June had slept dormant in me like thistle seeds under the soil. The end of Summer signified that joy, freedom, and security would be closed into a suitcase and returned to the attic or placed out of reach high on a shelf in the garage until the following year.
Now, as an oldster, I eagerly anticipate the coming of dew-drenched mornings, cool winds, back roads devoid of traffic, colorful Autumn leaves, budding mushrooms, elaborate spider webs, festive holidays, and clean fresh air. I know intellectually that the various seasons are like ice cream flavors and, by magical design, each are tasty and sweet. Yet, emotionally, every person has his favorites, and I, spoon already in hand, am looking forward to Fall to savor a generous portion of one of mine.