Just yesterday Tom was chainsawing firewood and I was tearing out weary garden plants. Today the forecast tells me it will be 85 degrees here in the northlands. Summer is over but not over.
This morning my older son heads off to begin his third year of college. He spent his last day in Maine climbing a mountain with two of his best friends from childhood, and in the evening we all ate a big summer dinner: fried chicken, biscuits, watermelon salad, cucumber salad, and rootbeer floats. Today, the boy and his father will drive south with their truckload of stuff, and his brother and I will drive north to soccer practice, and all of us will feel odd.
Here's a poem by my friend Baron, a poem I've always liked because it captures my own sense of the way in which we cling to our tenuous, temporary seasons.
Poem for My Son
Each time you connected I strode among junipers
And ankle-twisting stump-holes to where it seemed the ball had landed.
You waited and gave occasional directions:
"In front of the apple tree. To the right of the boulder, I think."
Before each pitch arrived your boy's body grew taut.
You were like a green snake--lithe, patient, concentrated.
In spring, the hardball's plummet
Ended in a soggy plop. Grounders skidded rather than bounced.
In summer there were wild strawberries--
The tiniest winces of fruit sugar.
We lolled in the modest northern heat and watched
The grasshoppers inherit the earth.
Sometimes while throwing the ball I critiqued
Your swing: "The most difficult of physical feats,
Hitting a baseball." Or I chattered: "The game was not invented
In America but evolved like a--"
You were correct to interrupt. Pleasure wanted
The uncanny knack of concentration: not bearing down too hard
Nor assuming valiant strength would right all flaws.
You rarely flailed in vain. Eventually, you could have
Started for any school team, but we lived too far away
From the practiced accuracy of diamonds.
Whatever was to be learned, in all its green amplitude,
Had to be done there, on a sloping, runneled field.
[from Mulroney & Others (Sarabande Press, 2000)]