Bye, see you next year [Commentary]

It turns out summer wasn't endless

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Wow. That was fast.

I distinctly remember thinking during the cool, wet spring that summer would never arrive. Now I flip open my calendar and see that Labor Day is Monday. My Facebook feed is filled with back-to-school pictures of children. Summer is over, and not just for the kids.

I remember waiting for what seemed like forever for summer, for that distinctive smell of warming earth, for signs of life in the garden. For those first nights on the deck, watching for fireflies and the dark shadows of bats, flying and feeding. But after a hard winter, it seemed like the world was stuck in neutral, unable to make the climb into sunshine.

Now the garden is dusty dry and all chewed up. Everything looks tired and spent. I can hear the cicadas calling and the chirp of crickets. What happened to summer? Where did it go? Why didn't it take me with it?

It is a fact that fall in the Mid-Atlantic can be a long, luxurious study in moderation. Bright sun that delivers warmth, not withering heat. Nights flushed by what my mother used to call "good sleeping weather." Windows open like possibilities. Breezes that do not feel like the hot breath of a feverish child.

Fall is the reason I live here, but summer is why I flourish. I am like the geraniums. Fall's sunny days and cooler nights will revive me, a kind of false high season. But the geraniums are guaranteed to fade, and so am I.

Fall is harvest time and the plenty can make you feel safe in the face of change. Whatever comes, there will be soup. My freezer has a calendar of its own, empty again every September. Weekends will be spent in the kitchen now, the sound of football crowds on the television in the background. I am a cutting board queen, and I preside over a kingdom of plastic containers.

But still, the days grow shorter over my objections. I remember the dizzying sense of possibility I felt as a child when the sun didn't set until forever, and my friends and I roamed the neighborhood on bikes in the enduring dusk, and bedtime seemed to take the summer off. Now, as fall creeps toward winter, my curfew will roll inexorably backward into dinner time.

I watch and listen for hurricane warnings these days, another fact of life here in the Mid-Atlantic. Hanna and Wilfred. Fay and Teddy.

Any of the guys and gals who make it to the Carolinas will probably stop in Maryland, too. And the Chesapeake Bay can act like an open door, inviting the spinning clouds inside. Storms clear the dusty air in fall and bless the garden, but they are the first hint of how vulnerable you will be in the months ahead.

A friend warned me that bee-keepers are predicting a long, cold winter. The bees are frantically gathering food, she said, warning the rest of us to be prepared. Thanks for the heads up, guys. It is like knowing you are going to be under house arrest for four months, but they haven't come with the ankle bracelet just yet.

The only good news that comes with the end of summer is the promise that it will return. It may take its own sweet time getting here, but it always shows up.

And summer will be warm and ripe and beaming with possibilities, and dusk will last forever and the time for bed will drift further and further into the night.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com and @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.


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