Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Ode to the end of August
August can’t leave without long good-byes. Another year of life, a year now pregnant with the consequences of my thoughts and deeds, rounds out in the fullness of her eighth month. In these last few days, I wander through the garden, unhurried. Around me linger faded roses and blackberries, overripe, and the perfume of fallen apples rises from the ground. Corn stalks rustle in a slight breeze. Under the cornhusks golden kernels hide, swollen and crowed. This eighth month feels heavy with memories of Augusts past.
On a rare quiet afternoon in my Tacoma home I daydream in a chair by an open window. The unread book slips from my hand. A wind chime tinkles and I hear a lawn mower down the street. In my mind I am back in my mother’s kitchen on Vashon Island, forty-five years ago, releasing kidney beans from their dry tan shells. Plink. Plink. Plink. They hit the enameled bowl while the pressure cooker whistles on the stove. The canning never ends. I would rather look again through the new Sears and Roebuck catalog, at the school clothes we might order. Now I think of my mother in her apron, filling the clean Mason jars.
August means brown lawns, grasshoppers and ripe tomatoes. Leaves float in the wading pool. The porch furniture needs cleaning. The petunias look scraggly. Shorter days seem to symbolize its sense of impending change, from one season to another, from child to adult. In this eighth month, under a full moon, the first poignant summer romances of youth, ended. The memories of youth became never ending.
This August I pondered that same moon while riding the last ferry of the night from Vashon Island back to Tacoma. That moon never abandons me, witness to my years. It always seems biggest at this time of year. With my car parked far out on the open deck, I relished having a front row seat. I opened the windows to the warm air, the scent and sounds of the water. In the distance, on all sides, from Des Moines to Gig Harbor, the scattered lights of the human domain lit up the darkness, but it pleased me to see the great expanse of black that is Point Defiance Park, and to know that wild creatures, with their all-seeing eyes, still crept among the trees. The moon watches them too, and shines down on the pathways I walk, soon to be covered with autumn leaves.
Good-byes can be long or quick and painful, but to the human heart, never final. They are but chapters in the book that has dropped from the hand. We pick it up and read again, over and over, for as long as memory lasts, as long as the heart feels. The year that now reaches its fullness will give birth to more memories, but also new opportunities and dreams as the seasons change and the year goes ‘round again. Good-bye August. You are always bittersweet. Next year when the apples hang ready to fall, and butter slides over an ear of corn, my life may have changed, but you and I, the past and the present, and the moon, will all meet again.