Monday, September 1, 2014

Diary: Late Summer

1 September 2014

Flowers in the garden outside the barn.

Late summer is one of Berkeley's two ideal seasons, with fine, warm weather. We banished the deer, and the garden has repaid our kindness with flowers and vegetables. Unlike spring, a sign that winter's over, late summer speaks of autumn, of the dreaded fire season, and of impending winter which I dislike. So I view it with mixed feelings. In childhood, it meant the end of leisure - the real kind in which time barely figures - and a return to school, with its clock, its work, its spans of dead time that imagination sought to fill. School prepares us for the odd life that follows, with its interludes of joy and terror amid long stretches of making, doing, dreaming, and regretting. 

This Saturday marked 40 years since I married. This led me to post some photos, both of the event and of the bride. Elsewhere, I've tried to set down thoughts about marriage - an institution that also has to fit within the life that follows. Marriages build up their quota of tangibility, although this is as ephemeral as anything else. A striking feature of the news, more or less across my lifetime, is its tendency to give vivid examples of the tangible falling apart. Yet we persevere, so this illusion is a necessary workaround, like the Zen stricture against nihilism.

Late summer is a memento mori, a prelude to winter. Last winter was summery, which was pleasant enough but jarring. If it repeats, it will be a disaster. My prejudice against winter reflects long experience. The house is tighter now than it used to be, so the worst of it is not as bad from a living standpoint. I can put up with the rain, too, for the most part. I think the dark is the real problem, how the days contract. Whatever the season, I'm up late, but shorter days depress me.

Nature, of course, could care less. It has its own reasons. I'm just another genetic pop-up, with seasons of my own, fast expiring. At least, my seasons feel that way, although I could argue for some continuing middle ground that separates me from the nearly dead - an argument that's likely to continue pretty much until they hand me the morphine. 

A year ago, I was in London, on a trip that also took in parts of France and Spain. It was ill-timed in relation to work, but a perfect end of summer. This summer has been short trips to the East Coast, plus some days off now and again. The barn and the garden have substituted for distant places. As a friend pointed out, our region is many others' tourist destination. I do love it. Whenever I'm away, I soon miss it: Domesticity again.

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