In the mid-Atlantic, I could never truly differentiate between June, July and August other than the comings and goings of birthdays. The passage of time was unnoticed by the weather, hot and muggy as it was with the air pressing down on your skin whether it be in sun or shade, day or night. The days were long, the sun persistent, and storms would billow up fast and come in strong. It was strange to me, because I had lived further north for most of my life where every warm-weathered month was always vastly different then the last.
The memory of those summer months sat at the tip of my tongue, the barest taste that left me curious to the sensory memory. I knew things were different then in my childhood but I knew how the world had also evolved since those early years. The world had become hotter, the weather more unpredictable and angry, so perhaps the weather I was so used to from my childhood was no longer present. Perhaps it had died away and was simply a thing of my past, much like my youth.
But returning to my childhood state and settling down in a different area, hours from my childhood home, I was introduced to different weather immediately and August was no different. Earlier days called for muggy heat and uncomfortable nights but they were quickly blown away, chased off by the angry yells of thunderheads and nipped at by bolts of lightning. In their place the sun shown but did not blister the earth, the breeze blew, and the night became cool enough to throw open the windows, part the curtains, and let the air slip past furniture and hush us to sleep.
As I walked with my infant, pushing his stroller around, I realized I had a true moment of observance at my fingertips. Unable to distract myself with a phone, I was witness to my surroundings. The leaves of the trees were still primarily green but already there was a dullness to their hue and some trees were even beginning to show their oranges and yellows at the very tips. Nuts were hanging heavy on the trees and some were beginning to fall to the ground, bouncing and splitting, and rolling off to the waiting paws of squirrels who were beginning to look rather plump.
Tomatoes in their bright red filled the farmer’s market, as well as peaches piled high. The air is rich with their scent in the early morning hours where jeans and a t-shirt are appropriate wear, paired with sandals or even sneakers and hot coffee clasped in hand. The tomatoes still hold the heat of the sun in their ripened flesh and shucking corn is done barefoot and seated on the steps of the back porch.
Just a few weeks before, in the middle of August, I wadded into the deep lake that had finally gotten warm enough for swimming while the outside air was rapidly cooling. A group tossed a frisbee from one to another, flailing and falling into the water when it went awry, and charcoal smoke filled the lake edge carrying barbecue with it.
The crickets sing in earnest, the summer bugs sing their songs in more spaced out intervals, and finally a bonfire’s heat in the darkening night seems more of a comfort rather than just ambience. The heat is perfection as it warms the skin and chases off bugs while a marshmallow melts against the brittle wood of the stick plucked from the woods edge.
This is the element of August I missed when the heat and humidity surrounded me. Subtle changes, subtle signs that fall is preparing for its call. But summer still holds fast, even though it’s getting sleepy and is preparing to take a long rest. And rightfully so, because summer is a busy, hectic time with so much growth that the season must be tired, and I find I am as well. After the hustle of the last few months, August serves as a chance to make final plans and feel the sun on my bare legs a little bit longer before the long winter. It’s the final busy days of play before I turn my focus to work, and previous to this time of life, the final days before school. I’ll miss August, particularly in the dead of winter, but for now I’m embracing it as it takes its step away into the dusky sunset of neon colors. I know it’ll return, next year, for the same rush of final summer activities and first of autumn’s harvest.