Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Signs of Summer's Eb

Looking out over the yard two weeks ago I noticed spider webs on the lawn sparkling with morning dew That’s been a sure reminder that summer break is past its late-July halfway point and schools will be reopening in a matter of weeks. Today, crickets are chirping in the yard during daylight hours and that’s an August sign that fall is getting even closer. The autumn chill the past few mornings brings a certain fragrance with it and nothing brings back memories more powerfully than familiar smells.

It’s been more than eight years since my retirement, but from ages six to sixty my life was dictated by the academic calendar as student or teacher. These distinctly New England sights, sounds, and smells will always affect me the same ways. I would feel a combination of lament for the fading summer mixed with dread and pleasant anticipation of going back to school. Soon the big yellow school bus will go by my house at 7:00 am. I’ll look up from my reading and remember all those times I’d be heading out the door to follow close behind it. Not anymore though, because I’m no longer captive to the academic calendar. Now I can choose how to spend my day. I can go anywhere, do anything. 

Dawn at Moose Pond in Bridgton, Maine

For example, watching sunlight fill the day with a camera in my hand is one of my favorite things. That’s more difficult from May through July when the sun clears the horizon around five am. I’m usually up by 4:30 but I prefer to shower, exercise, dress, and drink coffee before going out. From late August through November, it is much easier to accomplish that. Being out and about at dawn is usually a solitary endeavor, but sometimes I’ll see another dawn person on my sojourns. I’ll nod to them or perhaps say good morning, but they usually enjoy their privacy as much as I do. They’ll nod back and then we’ll each go our own way.

Twilight at Kezar Lake in Lovell, Maine

Watching daylight fade at dusk is another special time. I like to be out and about then too, but so do many others. Unlike the solitude of dawn, twilight is more of a social time, especially in late summer and fall when daylight diminishes at an accelerating rate — from two minutes per day June to July — to three by end of August. By September 1st those small increments have added up to the point where daylight has diminished by two hours since school let out in June. In early August we see the first leaves turning red, usually on maples stressed by various factors like too much or two little water. Sumacs change early as well and sometimes it starts as early as July. Certain ferns turn yellow and then brown. Soon the sweetish smell of decaying vegetation can be detected after a rain.

Our back field in Lovell, Maine
For months, there’s been a big pile of tree-length hardwood in my back field. It’s hard to estimate but there are probably twelve cords plus or minus, and it needs to be cut and split. I used to do that work every year at this time, and I may go out there and do a little just for old time’s sake — but that’s all. I miss the unique fragrance given off while splitting red oak and I want to experience that again, but I don’t need the wood. It’s all there because I asked someone to cut the trees beyond the field that were getting too tall and blocking some of our view. I didn’t think it would amount to that much firewood, but a former student has agreed to work it up in September.

My daughter and grandson
In a few more weeks people will be donning an extra layer as they go out in the morning. Some may even start a fire in the wood stove. Then they’ll look at their wood piles and think about adding to them. It’s hard to get motivated to do that kind of thing in August when the temperature is in the 80s every day. It makes me tired now to remember myself as a young man spending two August weeks getting out my firewood, hauling it home, and sweating off ten or fifteen pounds in the process. I’ve been heating with oil the past several years and only keep around a little wood for the fireplace. These days I’d rather go out and take pictures to sell — then pay someone else to work up all that wood.

Sunrise at the Eastern Prom in Portland, Maine


Nick Peace said...

Nice photos Tom

Uber_Fritz said...


I can certainly identify with the sensory adventures; my experiences were virtually identical. However, toward the end of my tenure, an acquaintance said to me, "The buses will roll, but you won't."

And that was true.

Radio Patriot said...

We'll be leaving Florida, heading to Maine tomorrow. For various reasons, I wasn't able to enjoy the sweeter spring and summer months up there, but will get to enjoy the rest of August and into the Fall.

There's nothing prettier than watching the leaves turn and the late summer sunsets. After a summer's worth of heat and daily deluges here in Central Florida, I look forward to the piney smells and the clean, crisp air!

Maine is a paradise of its own.

DAWN said...

After spending almost five decades of year round living in Maine and now a Florida resident with a yearly visit to Maine, I do miss the New England Fall weather the most. I had a love/hate relationship with the ending of summer in Maine. While I loved the crisp cool fall weather and the sights and smells that go along with it, I knew it meant the dreaded long winter was soon on its way. That is the reason for moving to a warmer climate.

Enjoy your fall and know that the rest of us displaced Maineiacs are wishing we could be there to enjoy the turning of the leaves and the annual apple picking trips to the local orchids.