Friday, August 8, 2008

The not-so-lazy days of August

As I read Heidi's words on the lazy days of August, and phrased my reply to her, all of a sudden it became clear what I've been feeling in the past week. Does this happen to you? Often it takes communicating, either in print or verbally, for me to understand my thoughts.

I told Heidi that I don't feel the lazy days so much. I may have as a child, and for the few years between college and when Tom began teaching, yet when you have children in the school system or are a teacher or are married to one, August is a different sort of month. You know that I love fall, so it isn't a sadness that summer is coming to an end. In fact I wrote about that very thing last October. Yet this time is anything but lazy, quiet, relaxing. August is all about preparing for the opening of school after Labor Day. I know many across the country, especially in the South, actually begin classes in August, but except for a very few times, up here it is the day after Labor Day. And it isn't only Tom; I have friends who are also teachers, and they are in this same mode of activity.

The month of August begins with meetings which continue off and on until Labor Day weekend. And in between all those meetings, there is a bit of a frenzy to finish up all the household projects, get the wood split and piled for winter, etc. By September, the darkness comes earlier, the evenings and even some days are cool enough for the woodstove, and there simply aren't enough at-home hours for Tom to do all he likes to do around here. For he is not a teacher who relaxes on a hammock in the summer. In those few weeks between the ending of the school year in late June until the beginning of the August meetings, he happily lives his farmer life.

Anyhow, I commented to Heidi that I feel antsy, uncomfortable, and that I'm waiting, not just for the start of school, but also for the summer to be over. As much as I love getting together with people, and having fun, by now I'm tired and feeling that restlessness which oftens accompanies tiredness. I'm a person who loves the common, the everyday. I welcome September for the order it imparts on our daily life. It is just this end of summer, rushing about, trying to fit everything in sort of time that I'm not so fond of. Once Labor Day comes, I can relax. What is done, is done. The projects left unfinished can be worked on next year. It is just the feeling in August that everything must be completed that causes me a degree of anxiety.

I've been reading a bit in a Gladys Taber collection called The Best of Stillmeadow, and she has quite different feelings.

The turning wheel of the seasons rolls slowly now, in August. People walk without hurry. ... There is a hiatus between the hard work of mid-summer and the brisk days of woodcutting, filling woodsheds, chopping kindling, to come. Weeding in the garden is just about over. From now on, the vegetables can hold their own, weeds or no. ... Nature and man both seem to me to move on a light rein for a short time, a restoring time.

I wonder whether the fact that so many vacations come in August is because of the heat itself or because it is a natural time for man and Nature to relax. I have read that energy is highest in October, and it may be so. If this is true, then August is the time for dreaming, for taking a thoughtful look at life and for letting some of the chores go by the board.

Isn't it just so interesting that two women living much the same sort of life, can view a month so differently? For me, July is that dreamy time. As noted last summer, I love the old song, You Go To My Head, with its wonderful line, "like a summer with a thousand Julys." July is when I love to relax, when I love to see people and go out to dinner and the movies. By now, I'm beginning to 'hunker down' in preparation for the fall, for the school year, for the shorter days; all of which I love. Yet in this in-between month, I can't settle down. I'm just waiting.


  1. Yes, it is interesting how differently we view the seasons. I like them all and am happy to live in a country with four seasons - even if I'm not too happy about very cold weather and much snow. I love Spring but it is a bit too hectic for me, so much happens at once. I'm a rather slow person which might be the reason that late summer and early fall is my favorite time of the year. Reminds me about how hectic youth is and how much I appreciate getting older when I have time "to smell the flowers".

  2. I feel the same way you do about August, Nan. First I was a teacher, then a mom getting children ready for school, then, in my current job, preparing for the choir season to start up again ( we don't meet in the summer). I like it. It makes me feel like I'm getting organized.

  3. That excerpt just reaffirms what I'm going to ask for for Xmas this year: Gladys Taber books!

    My ex-husband is a high school principal and, as our schools start following Labour Day as well, I believe I understand your feelings. The rush for September and its routine all seemed so "premature", as though summer were being forced to "shut down" early, and it used to produce a certain anxiety in me, as well, especially when my daughters were part of the preparations. I'm with you - I love the fall and would trade even the winds of Feb for this wretched heat and humidity.

    It's almost as though if we can just push through this list of things that must be done, *then* it will be time to relax. :)

  4. Hello Nan! Yes, I do know what you mean. I am certainly feel that anxiety of the last few weeks of the summer, especially since we still have summer transitions to make. After the main summer program ends this Friday, we have 2 different camps the next 2 weeks - to faciliate my working - and then the beginning of school. Unlike my reluctance to begin kindergarden last year, this year I'm looking forward to 1st grade and the routine that it brings. The girl is also asking for 1st grade.

    All this, and yet, I am still waiting and hoping that I get some sort of substantial tomato crop, so that I can make my favorite summer recipes. Hoping.

  5. My late mother introduced me to the writing of Gladys Taber--her Butternut Wisdom column in the Family Circle magazine. Several years ago I was able to collect a number of her works--she was a featured author at our Book Basket exchange. Much as I enjoy her words, I don't recall August as anything but hot, humid and busy--during the New England years. Canning, freezing, cleaning up the messy kitchen from the process, still weeding, still sweating--busy ants preparing for the long cold winter! I dreaded the frost that would put an end to most of my flowers and the supply of fresh veggies. But late in September as the pace slowed and the days cooled--how refreshing to walk along a dirt road or a pasture track without sweating and swatting bugs. "Country living" has become big business, sort of glamorized. For those of us who have always been "country", by inheritance or by choice, the pleasure is in hard work well done and a keen appreciation of where we are in every changing season.

  6. My mother loved the Butternut Wisdom columns, and I suppose that is when I developed my idea of idyllic country life. Ten or fifteen years ago, I checked out all of Taber's books (all that the library had copies of) and read them and loved Stillmeadow and its denizens - those with fur and feathers as well as the human kind. Maybe it is time to re-read; they are comfort books.


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