Seasons in the Sun
Today I went to the store to get a skimmer for the pool.
A few days ago, there was an entire section devoted to pool things: floats, chlorine tablets, towels, sunscreen. Now, there was one tiny shelf containing marked-down items. I stood and stared at it, wondering where summer had gone.
“It’s only early August,” I said to Cubby. “We’ve got at least six more weeks of pool season.”
Things did not improve when we went searching for bathing suits. There were a handful left, but they were crammed onto one rack, and were mostly extra-smalls. Where they had once hung in gaily-fluttering rows, they now huddled together in despair, knowing that their chance to participate in summer fun time was rapidly disappearing.
Where the trunks had been only last week there were now flannel shirts. Gone too were the racks of shorts, replaced by long pants. Looking around, I noticed store workers putting up Back to School posters. Others were gathering up the remnants of summer and setting out things like notebooks, pencils, and lunch boxes.
Cubby and I left and went home. Floating in the pool, I thought about this rush to get to the next season. I get it—stores have to be thinking ahead. And it’s become something of a joke, the Halloween candy arriving in August, the Christmas in July movies on the Hallmark Channel, the way the day after any major holiday the associated paraphernalia is marked down and the stuff for the next one fills the aisles.
But why do we seem always to be looking ahead to the next thing, rather than enjoying the current thing? Why, as we slather on sunblock, are we longing for pumpkin spice season to get here?
Look. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. Last year, the kids who came to the house trick-or-treating saw a fully-lit Christmas tree behind me when I opened the door. I don’t normally put it up that early, but I was feeling nostalgic. And admittedly, by the time Christmas morning came around, I was weary of the whole thing in a way I would not have been had I waited a while to conjure the holiday magic with ornaments and lights.
“I can’t wait until the leaves change,” I said to Cubby the other day while driving down our tree-shaded road. “It’s going to be so beautiful.”
“It’s beautiful now,” he reminded me.
And it is. The sunlight through the green leaves is gorgeous. The tunnel effect created by the branches of the trees meeting overhead always makes me feel as if I’m driving down some enchanted path. It will indeed be beautiful in fall, when the colors change, and in winter, when the bare branches are frosted with snow. But it’s beautiful now, so why focus on what it will look like weeks or months from now?
At the half-century mark, I am very much aware that I have limited time left to enjoy things like seasons and holidays. If I follow in the family tradition, where only one relative (my father) made it to 80, I have maybe 30 of each annual holiday left. Rather than rush through them to get to the next one, I should try to be fully in the moment for each one. Why I can’t always do this is something I haven’t quite figured out.
Sometimes I think it’s because the current moments are not as satisfying as I feel they should be. The summer is not quite summery enough. The Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t inspire as much thankfulness as it probably ought to. And so I look ahead to the next one, thinking that that one will be perfect, more fulfilling, more…something.
According to the calendar, we have until September 23 to celebrate summer, so roughly six more weeks. I’m going to try to do that. I’ll attempt not to complain about the heat, but appreciate it because it gives me a reason to be in the pool. I’ll eat all the summer things: corn on the cob, shaved ice, watermelon.
I’ll stop complaining about having to put on sunscreen and instead enjoy the warmth of the sun on my bare skin. I’ll even attempt not to complain about having to mow the grass, although that one will be tough. Maybe if I focus on how many coneflowers we have this year and how beautiful their purple, nodding heads are, it will help.
The days pass quickly. Already, they’re getting shorter. I notice it when I take the dogs out for their bedtime pee. Summer is, inevitably, going to give way to fall. But not yet. Despite what the store shelves may say, there is still time for cookouts and swimming, for sunburns and fruit drinks. Enjoy them all. ▼
Michael Thomas Ford is a much-published Lambda Literary award-winning author.