Missing Summer

It dawned on me today that it’s August.  Kids are getting ready to go back to school just as I am noticing it’s summer.

This summer, I have spent sitting.  I’ve done a little math.  I figured I’ve spent an average of 80 hours a week sitting in front of a computer, 45 hour sleeping, 7 hours walking the dog(s), 1 hour doing yoga, 14 hours eating (mostly more sitting), 3 hours socializing (yet more sitting), 3 hours shooting, 4 hours working with birds, and the remaining 11 hours doing mundane tasks like getting ready in the morning, driving places, grocery shopping, dog washing, dog feeding, taking the dog to the vet, making coffee, and doing household chores.

That’s not exactly how I might have planned my summer.

I think back to the summers of my childhood when they seemed to stretch on forever.  I remember running around in the neighborhood with my friends playing whatever game we could come up with much of the day.  If I wouldn’t have been an avid reader, I probably would have spent the entire day outside.  When friends weren’t available, I took my books outside and read in our treehouse or in a make-shift tent made of blankets hung over our swing set.

There were chores and, when I was old enough, a job.  But my first job was mowing lawns–even that felt like a fun outdoor activity once I got started.  I used to love the smell of fresh cut grass and the look of a neatly trimmed lawn.  All of it spoke of summer to me.

It’s funny that we grow up thinking we will have summers forever.  Summers with less responsibility, fewer deadlines, and an open schedule.  Summers where the biggest worry is that we’ll be bored.  Do kids still have summers like that?  I miss them.

I miss the feeling of sleeping in on a weekday, rising to an empty house with a stocked fridge.  Meandering through the day without a single thing planned, required, or demanded.

I suppose the whole summer wasn’t like that.  There was a week of camp.  Days I had to do things.  But I looked forward to those days because the freedom of the unplanned days was sometimes overwhelming.

I entered this summer without acknowledging it.  I didn’t just spend it sitting; like walking past a lost penny, I didn’t pick it up to spend it at all.  I didn’t notice the longest day of the year.  I didn’t catch any fireflies.  I didn’t spend a single night gazing at the stars.  I didn’t take a moment to sit in the shade on a hot sunny day, feeling the breeze and thinking life is good.  It seems like a summer wasted.

Last Chance

Now that we’ve passed the autumnal equinox, all the signs that summer is over have become more prevalent.  Of course, there are the birds, having shed their breeding colors and stopped their incessant singing.  But, there are many other signs.

For one, the nights are cool and crisp, the air taking on a taste (or is it a touch?) that snaps as I move through it.  And the nights come faster, the sun setting earlier each night, while the mornings drag along, the sun too sleepy to rise.

Leaves have started blowing along the paths in the park, crunching underfoot and crackling against concrete as they dance in the breeze.  The leaves that remain on the trees have shifted from deep green to something a women’s clothing catalog might call chartreuse.

As I walk Tisen longer and longer before dawn, Venus continues to shine brilliantly as if it’s late at night.  Combined with the waxing moon, I find myself confused as to whether I’m getting up or going to bed.  With the morning temperatures calling for a fleece, I’m tempted to go to bed.


The pots of summer flowers on neighbors’ balconies have disappeared and been replaced with mums in fall colors.  Some even have pumpkins and halloween decorations displayed.  The stores have already stocked halloween candy (betting on compulsive sugar-eaters like me buying early and eating what they buy and having to replenish before trick or treat).

Yet, there are still persistent remnants of summer.  The Tennessee River remains the temperature of a warm bath (how I know that is a subject for another blog post).  The late afternoon temperatures still reach the mid to high 80’s.  And, on weekends, local families still gather on the sledding hill.

Just over a year ago, I did a post called Southern Sledding.  This was the most fascinating tradition to me.  It struck me as odd that up North, it had never occurred to us to sled on grass.  We waited around for 10 months out of the year day dreaming about when we could go sledding again, hoping against hope that we’d get enough snow over Christmas vacation (which never happened).  And then hoping for enough snow to close the schools so we could go sledding instead of going to school (which rarely happened).  Perhaps we liked the idea of sledding more than the reality of sledding and that’s what kept us from thinking of sledding in warmer weather on the grass?

Whatever the reason, the sledding hill seems to be more crowded now as if everyone who never got around to grass sledding during the summer is trying to get it in before the weather changes.

This is one tradition I have yet to try.  I keep waiting for someone to offer a class on proper technique.  I guess I, too, will have to try to get it in before the rains start.  Perhaps I will take a lesson from one of my subjects and wear a helmet.

Being Home

After returning from Columbus and our own bed, I sleep soundly, but still awaken at 4AM. It seems to be the magic time for me these days. Perhaps I really do need to re-prioritize with yoga going to the top of the list? But here I am, at 4AM, wide awake. I take my laptop out on the balcony and sit down to blog. This is my favorite place in the morning. The city traffic trickles by instead of roaring and the cool morning wind makes me feel like someday, it really will be less than 95 degrees. I pause and look out over the city lights–many of which are solar powered. The lights make Chattanooga seem like a bigger city than it is, glowing with the insistence that it matters. I think about my sister-in-law and my nephew. They are in New Orleans,when sister-in-law returning my nephew to college after summer break. She will drive to Chattanooga today, staying with us for two nights as our first visitor. I think about how the city looked to me the first time I saw it and wonder if it will charm her in the same way.

I relax for a moment, realizing that today will be a relaxed day compared to the previous days in Columbus. With no one to see and no need to commute to work, I will wake Pat up in a couple of hours and we will take our morning walk by the river. I check my work email and take care of a few quick items, making sure There are no emergencies that require changing the pace of my morning. As the first rays of sunlight start to hit the bridges below, I pause again to appreciate the changing scene. A bat flies by, probably to retire for the day, and I wonder how many Mosquitos it ate last night.

I go in and open the refrigerator. It’s completely empty except for a water-filter pitcher. We have been buying groceries European style–buying only what we need for a day at time. In some ways it seems a waste of an American refrigerator, but the walk to the grocery is short and carrying groceries home limits how much we can buy at one time. I smile as I think of how many small things have changed in our life by moving to a new community. We could have walked to the grocery store in Columbus every day, but it didn’t occur to us. Changing places makes us think more about changing habits.

I putter around for a bit in the kitchen and then return to the balcony, still thinking of my nephew going back to school. I remember going back to college myself. It was not such a dramatic change for me. For one, I didn’t leave my home town. In fact, I didn’t leave home until my senior year (although I still paid rent). For another, I took classes every summer, so my break was limited to 3 weeks between summer and fall quarters. I also worked, so the continuity of my job(s) kept that break from feeling much like a break. Even so, the feeling of going back to school always delineated the summer from the fall even when the weather belied the shifting seasons. It was always a time of reflection with a sense of starting fresh. I wonder where that feeling went after so many years of work with no seasonal changes. I now look forward to fall for the shift in weather. The cold nights and sunny days feel like a burden lifting, but gone is the excitement of starting over as the seasons change. I wonder if, in this new place, that excitement will be reborn.

It’s almost time to wake up Pat. When I return inside, he is already up. I check my email again just in case something is going on in another part of the world where the offices are shutting down for the day. I wonder if my colleagues on the other side of the globe are watching the sunset as I watch the sunrise–each of us witnessing the same event from opposite directions.