Tag Archives: summer

Dragonfly days

Blue dragonflyAs long as you don’t have to go home, Saturday morning can be a great time in a beach town. That’s when all the rental places turn over, with the last batch of summer people checking out and the next crowd not arriving until afternoon. This gives us long-term beach bums some precious peace and quiet: no loud pool parties, amateur fireworks shows, golf carts buzzing up and down the streets, or Atlanta-like backups on the highway and in the grocery store.

You can set up your beach chairs wherever you please and walk the white sand without dodging boogie boards. Or you can take your coffee out on the screened porch if you’re lucky enough to have one, listen to the waves and the songbirds, and watch all the dragonflies that appeared in the last couple of days, this time of year being one of their peak seasons.

For me, and I suspect, a good many people my age, life seems a lot like one of these mornings, but not always in an idyllic way. I recently left one career behind, and though I’ve published a couple of short stories, my first novel and my career as a fiction writer are still at an early stage in the countdown. Other people may have children who’ve moved out, graduated, or gotten hitched, but aren’t having grandchildren yet.  And if you have aging parents, your life is always as uncertain as theirs.

Intellectually, I knew this would be a transition time. Emotionally, my attempts to “be here now,” as Ram Dass wrote, are up against the feeling that my life is in the fourth quarter (and sudden death doesn’t include overtime). My body isn’t helping, as it still wants a daily caffeine blast that could waken a dead volcano, and gets crabby when I try to do something important like reaching for a pillow  without getting out of my recliner.

But here by the sea, if you can just open up your senses, the natural, wild world becomes the best medicine. Walking the shoreline, it’s clear that the saying, “It’s never the same beach twice” is the truth, and the new, with long sandbars and higher waterlines, is as beautiful as the old. You realize what miracles those big* dragonflies are as they swoop around the houses and trees, magically hover for a split-second, then dart away.

At night, you go back to the porch and over a few weeks watch Venus and Jupiter move toward each other in the sky, appear for a moment to be almost joined, then pull away again. Things change, and we will too. We always have.

 

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*How big are they? The other day, one touched down at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, tanked up on jet fuel, and took off for Dallas before anybody figured out what it was. (That’s the kind of joke I’d usually save for a small child, but since none are around, y’all will have to do.)

 

Almost August

It’s almost August and our summer lives again. Two weeks of highly unseasonable cold, clouds, and rain have given way to 90-degree days and plenty of sunshine. The pool water sparkles, and in the kitchen there’s a bowl of plump Georgia peaches, so perfectly ripe that the flesh just falls off the seed. Cut them too soon and they’re chewy, without much taste. Today they’re just right, but the window for enjoying them closes quickly, and it’s not the only one.

It’s almost August. When I was a kid, this was when you started to look over your shoulder for the first day of school, even though in my town, classes didn’t start until the day after Labor Day. So you darn sure made the most of every minute of summer break, purely on your own devices, no adults scheduling or supervising.

You’d head out the door in the morning knowing you’d find something to do. Maybe a ball game at the playground; we only needed eight guys, enough for a pitcher and three fielders on each side. Or kickball in the street right outside the front door, where first base was a tree, second was a filled-in pothole, third was the tree on the other side, and home was just a spot on the concrete. Every so often somebody yelled, “CAR!” and “play was suspended” while it passed.

In the afternoon, a kid might come along on a pedal-powered ice cream cart with all kinds of treats, including big, frosty fudgsicles, my favorite. Evenings, we’d gather again, just hanging out, then heading home when it got dark. You might walk home with a girl if you were at that age, talking, heart beating a little faster than usual, trying not to be uncool.

I’m not a parent and don’t mean any of this as criticism of the way kids spend their time today. But the freedom we had back then left me with some precious gifts: being able to find my own fun, truly enjoy every moment, and sometimes do nothing much at all, for no good reason, and love it. And there’s no better time than right now.

It’s almost August and now it’s almost dusk. Open the windows on the porch and let the breeze drift in through the screens. Listen to the crickets. Look at the lightning bugs and the first few stars, then a few more.

Get yourself a good summer beer, something wheaty but clean. Turn on the ball game, even if that overpriced outfielder is 0 for 4 and they’re about to drop another one. Sit on the swing and rock gently, easily back and forth. Faintly, from somewhere up the street, you can hear the kids laughing.

It’s almost August.

Already?

There’s a football game tonight? And a lot of other games on Saturday, this Saturday? Are you sure about that?

It’s still summer. More accurately, in Atlanta it’s been summer again for the last week or so. We had weeks of wet, gray days and October-like chills, but finally the sun has reasserted itself. Right now the thermometer on the back deck reads 90 degrees and the pool looks crystal-clear and inviting, even if those darn frogs are still around.

Yes, the water is a bit cooler, and I’ve had to pull up the blanket on the bed these last several nights. It just can’t be time for football, again, already. We just got a new table-top grill and haven’t even had a chance to use it once. So easy: you turn it on, load in some wood chips for flavor, and in no time at all you’ve got the juiciest, tenderest chicken you’ve ever tasted. Ready to eat with some fresh corn and tomatoes, those hulking red ones so sweet they could almost pass for dessert. Nothing fancy, nothing better in the world.

I know, the price of tomatoes is up again. Lots of school buses on the road in the morning, too. I haven’t seen any lightning bugs for a while; the big yellow butterflies are out instead. There’ll probably be dragonflies in the air at the beach when we go there for a weekend. But our grass is pure green from all that rain, the crepe myrtles by the driveway still need trimming, and the days are still pleasantly long. So it’s still summer. Isn’t it?

Pretty soon, I’ll be yelling, “Go Blue!” to anyone in earshot, probably my wonderful, tolerant wife. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else at that moment. But won’t it still be summer?

Please?