The summer ends, and we wonder where we are,
And there you go my friends with your boxes in your car.
And you both looked so young and last night was hard you said,
You packed up every room
and then you cried and went to bed,
But today you closed the door and said
"We have to get a move on,
It's just that time of year when we push ourselves ahead,
we push ourselves ahead."
-Dar Williams, "End of the Summer"
I was just reading a really good essay by Pam Houston (who I obviously haven't promoted enough already), where she mentioned that March 21 is her favorite day of the year, because from then on she knows the days are going to get longer, the weather is going to get warmer, and summer is going to come. The fall solstice, on the other hand, depresses her, because even though fall is lovely, the days are getting shorter and winter is coming. And even the longest day of the year in June is bittersweet, because she knows that it's all downhill from there.
Pam Houston lives in Colorado, where the seasons play a much bigger part than they do here. Here, we get sun most of the year, and summer is the time of year most people complain about. Not me, though. After 23 years in gray Oregon, there isn't enough sun in the world for me. I continue to worship at the alter of summer no matter what happens to the heat index.
Part of the summer love, I think, is not so much about whether as it is about someone who has nearly always lived her life by a school-year schedule. For nearly all my life, I've been in school, and I've often worked at schools or at other places that followed school calendars as well, so I'm pretty well in tune to the academic year. The new year starts for me in September, rather than January. But I have a complaint: that new year starts earlier all the time.
When I was a kid, school never started before my birthday at the end of August, and it almost never started before Labor Day. When I started college, I got used to classes starting the week of my birthday, cutting as much as a full week out of August. But this? Summer ending in the middle of the month? It's ridiculous. How can it be August 9 and I already feel like summer is gone? School supplies in the stores, the local primary and secondary schools starting classes next week, people prodding me about my plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which should be so far away.
I want--I feel that I am owed--three months of summer. And cutting it off in mid-August doesn't give me three months. The rotations of the Earth and the sun tell us that summer runs from June 21 to September 21--why do we fight it? First, we moved it from June 1 to September 1, more or less, and now we're chiseling away at it. Completely unfair.
Another reason I know it is the end of summer is because things are changing. As referenced in Dar's lyrics at the beginning of this post, it is the end of summer and my friends are leaving. True, they are not yet gone, but my consciousness is clouded with the preparations for their leaving. And it seems only natural that they are moving to a place where it is nearly always winter. I know it's a metaphor, and that I shouldn't make it more than it is, but I can't help but feel the permanence in that transition, and fear the distance between where I am and their new home in the snow.