A call to bloom amid summer's shortening days

When summer begins its ending, I get sad. Even though the season is not what it used to be (and maybe never was), I still imagine there should be a few more long afternoons left for lying in the sun. Or for swimming. Or for thinking about sunning or swimming. 

I spent this summer playing tennis with people who say “Yabba Dabba Doo” after they hit a good shot. Let’s not call this quite “senior tennis,” but it is certainly not the high school team, either. I spent it, too, with grandchildren who put on their goggles and life vests to sit in the rubber kiddie pool on hot days.

I also gig about a lot and preach to people who only hear me once a year and think I am quite splendid. You’d be surprised how hard it is to preach three good sermons in a row in your home congregation, which has already heard everything you have to say twice. The great thing about gigging about is you can preach the one good one, over and over, in three different places.

Because my subject here at Eco Catholic often touches on new ways of thinking about the environment, adding strength to our capacity to face what we have to face, I am going to define a a good summer. These words could also define a good season:

You are, plain and simple, a crappy environmentalist if you only like one good season. Like youth. Or summer. Or sunshine. Or that one non-sustainable splendid sermon.

Age, winter and clouds are as much a part of cosmic nature and human nature as their counterparts. Neither is the enemy of the other. Good summer people understand that it doesn’t last. This season will not be the next season nor was it the last season. Things change. For all I know, it is time for a great human population reduction. And an animal one (I don’t think so, given the artifice that is causing the trouble in the climate. But you never know).

Plus, the point of life is not to have good vacations. The point of life is to have good labor and good vacations. We have to be careful about leisure. It is a season, no more, no less. Islands and “getting away” are great and so is the mainland and getting on and in.

After Labor Day, it is time to get off the saucer and into the cup.

The last two summers in the Northeast have ended abruptly with seriously bad weather, much of which we have yet to overcome. I think of Sandy and Irene. And we will not easily forget 9-11, a gorgeous summer day that turned dark before noon. As for this year, some of us have experienced pre-traumatic stress syndrome as well as garden-variety sadness about summer’s ending.

So let’s give a cheer for good old-fashioned grief. The great barrier grief, I call it. Ripe tomatoes fresh from the garden are to be grieved. But, first, they are to be eaten, because nothing tops a tomato sandwich for a summer lunch. Afterward, though, they are to be grieved because you can’t get them in the winter.

I recommend that we end summer by following the morning glory plant’s behavior. The shorter the days get, the more they bloom. Their tendrils and turnings show us how to climb off the saucer into the cup. 

As summer ends, we may want to learn how to twine sadness into seasonality, the kind that welcomes sun and cloud, summer and winter into our lives.