This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘time’

The Old Paths: Late Summer’s Lament

**This was originally published on Thursday, September 4, 2014, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

summer-wiped-out-by-waveIt was the red leaves in late August that got me. All around, the landscape screams, “SUMMER!” but there is something in the atmosphere that whispers, “Fall.” The green leaves that abound can’t quite screen out the occasional reds that are appearing. Golden flowers are flourishing on the roadside—a sure sign of summer’s last hurrah. In my yard, the sweet birdsong of spring and early summer has been replaced by the raucous cawing of crows.

I don’t like it.

Go ahead and tell me how much you love autumn. Try to convince me with the promise of community chicken stews and church Brunswick stews. Tempt me with the lure of vivid blue skies free of summer’s haze and a morning nip to the air. I’ll even agree that I love the fall foliage, football and hot spiced cider.

But I always miss summer once its swan song is sung.

i-miss-summer

Perhaps it’s that touch of claustrophobia that sometimes threatens me. It makes my toes cringe to think of surrendering their flip-flop freedom to the confined spaces of boots and tennis shoes. My skin does not want to give up the bareness of shorts and sleeveless shirts for the smothering enclosure of thick jeans and heavy sweaters.

I guess I just don’t like to be confined in any way—not even in my house. Due to my career as a writer, I’m already chained indoors to my computer too much. At least in late spring and summer, I can occasionally retire to the lawn chair on my deck, the trees providing me with shade as summer’s breeze brings relief on all but the hottest d
ays.

Although autumn in the South still provides enough nice weather for outdoor activities, the barefoot early mornings on my deck will soon be a memory. The late nights of lying on the trampoline to stargaze with my little boy will be relegated to the old paths as autumn’s chill gradually sneaks in. I start to see myself searching for a coat to wear even to the mailbox, my warm breath making “smoke” in the frosty air.summer-over-charlie-brown

I suppose one facet of why I hate to say goodbye to summer is that I know autumn is just a brief fling with cooler but still-comfortable weather before the harsh winter cold sets in. It’s hard to enjoy the good magazines in the dental waiting room when you know you’ll soon be called to the back for your root canal. What awaits us often mars the joy of what currently surrounds us.

“But the autumn leaves are so pretty!” you say to me, thinking this will convince me to welcome fall with open arms. Why, yes. Yes, they are. But they last all of two weeks before they litter the ground with what will become winter’s compost pile—their vibrant reds, oranges, yellows subdued into one monotonous brown to be trampled underfoot.

red-leaf-in-fall

Then we stare at bare trees for months….and months….and months.

Spare me your speeches and “Lion King” songs about the circle of life. I learned that in Mrs. Mildred Cromer’s first-grade classroom. I get it—I really do….not that there’s anything I could do about it if I didn’t. The cyclic seasons are as muchme-in-snow a part of this life as the gravity that possibly sent an apple hurtling down to Sir Isaac Newton’s head.

I accept that, and I honor my Creator’s marvelous plan. And contrary
to what you may think after reading this column thus far, I DO appreciate the beauty of every season and am thankful for it. My Facebook friends especially know how I love snow; when they are tiring of it, I am hoping for yet another snowstorm.

I realize that sometimes things must change for us to appreciate what we had/have. Even I would tire of a constant spring or an endless summer. “Variety is the spice of life,” they say. Well, THEY are certainly correct.

So I roll with the punches of the ever-fluid calendar and know that I will more richly revel in the resurrection of nature in the spring BECAUSE I have been through the barren winter. I will savor summer’s warmth in June BECAUSE I remember the frigid cold of January. Bare feet in newly-plowed garden soil, green shoots springing up from the ground, new leaves unfurling on hitherto bare branches—these pleasures are more poignant because of their long absence.

summer-where-did-it-goBut for now, please humor me in my lament for the passage of summer. As long as the calendar says August, I can still imagine that I’ll finally make it up to Hanging Rock to swim, that I’ll take that tubing trip down the Dan River, that I’ll head to the beach once more to sunbathe. But as soon as I turn the page to September, I sense the finality of those unmet goals. Summer’s slow, lazy pace lulled me through June, July and August, fooling me into thinking I’d have time to relax and do summertime things once my busy schedule calmed down.

I fell for it again. And now it’s time to get out the school supplies and put away the bathing suit that I didn’t swim in a single time this summer. Let me revamp Jimmy Buffett’s song and say, “It’s my own dang fault.”

I’m making the transition from Seals and Crofts to Sinatra—from “summer breeze makes me feel fine” to “my fickle friend, the summer wind.” Summer, you have less than three weeks left, so I bid you adieu and hope to see you next June 21. I will console myself with hot chocolate, steaming chicken stew and warm hoodies, but remember, you still have my heart.

summer-ending

The Old Paths: Sometimes there ain’t later. . .

My daddy’s best friend Petey who passed away two years ago.

I remember a Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago that I made the weekly journey to my parents’ house for lunch. My daddy’s best canine friend Petey greeted us as he always did. This little Jack Russell Terrier had been our buddy for nearly nine years, a steady guard dog who was as smart as any dog I’ve seen.

The next day we gathered there again to celebrate Memorial Day. I left in a hurry, work looming over my head despite the holiday. I remember thinking I hadn’t seen Petey much or given him the traditional scratch behind the ears.

“I’ll pet him later,” I said to myself.

Petey died the next day.

Sometimes there ain’t later.

That’s what a good friend of mine told me—in those exact ungrammatical words—when I lamented the fact that I didn’t pay any attention to Petey that weekend. Those simple words carry a wealth of wisdom.

Me covering the 2010 North Stokes graduation for the newspaper and feeling so heavy-hearted for my dear friend Dee Luster whose daughter Sonia would’ve graduated with this class. Sonia at her kindergarten graduation is on Dee’s t-shirt.

They came vividly back to me the very next week as I sat at lunch with Dee Luster, a mom who lost her only daughter—16-year-old Sonia—in an automobile accident on Highway 89 in Danbury, NC. When Dee told me how she said her typical “Love ya” to Sonia as she left for school at North Stokes High that September morning in 2008, I realized that Dee had had no way of knowing that would be their last verbal exchange on this earth.

With five children and all of us going in different directions, I spend lots of time on the phone each day with them. At the end of each call, even if it was just a 30-second conversation—“Mom, are my cleats in the trunk of your car?”—I say, “Love you.” Sometimes they respond in kind. Other times they just say goodbye. I’ve wondered if they wish I wouldn’t say that every time.

But what if “there ain’t later”? I want my children’s last memory of me—even if I’m 106 and watching my final game of Major League Baseball on the tube when I kick the bucket—to be of me telling them that I love them.

This is that time of year when we tend to lean toward the sentimental. Graduations abound. I’m seeing it all over the place. My Facebook friends are posting pictures of their children’s graduations from preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, high school. More than one of them has commented on their own post, “Where does the time go?”

Where does the time go? Wasn’t I just holding Meghann in my lap last week, reading Dr. Seuss books?

Tonight the seniors at my alma mater, South Stokes High School, are walking across the stage. Friday night brings commencement exercises for my hubster’s alma mater, North Stokes High School. The students at our other county high school, West Stokes, will march to “Pomp and Circumstance” on Saturday morning. I can guarantee there are many parents and grandparents all over Stokes County experiencing those sentimental feelings.

This time will never come again. With regard to high school graduation, there certainly “ain’t later.”

Enjoy this time in your life, seniors. One day you’ll be like my fellow South Stokes Sauras who had a 1980-86 class reunion a few years back. They renewed old friendships, but never again will they be that close-knit Saura family that they were back when they spent every school day together.

Enjoy this special time, parents. You will never pass this way again. You may look back at the pictures of that graduation day when your child marched onto the track to that familiar music. You may try to recapture the exact emotion you had as your baby’s name was called to receive a diploma. But it won’t be the same. You’ll never again quite remember exactly how you felt.

“Sometimes there ain’t later.” Now is the time.

How can I be making Chelsea’s graduation speech? Didn’t I just teach her how to read yesterday?

I recall an April day many years ago when I—queen of projects—had lots of work to do around the house. Meghann and Chelsea, then just tiny girls, began to beg me to have a tea party on the back deck. I told them I was too busy, but they persisted.

Finally, with a touch of irritation for having my plans disturbed, I gave in. We went outside in the mild spring air with a teapot, cups and snacks. The revelation hit me after just a few minutes that this was an event to treasure. I took a picture of our tea party. When I look at it now and see those little girls with happy smiles sipping from teeny toy teacups, I can muster up a little bit of what it felt like that day.

My tea party buddy Meghann is grown now, a magna cum laude graduate of Salem College.

But I can’t exactly recall the feeling. That was then. This is now. “There ain’t later” for that day. The girls are grown now, working each day with no time for tea parties on the deck with mommy.

My other tea party buddy, Chelsea, graduated from high school a few years back and will soon graduate from college.

While you have today, act as if later won’t come. Make decisions accordingly. Savor the emotions of the present to remember in the future. Treasure that graduation ceremony. Hug that child. Tell your significant other, your parent, your best friend that you love them. Pet your dog.

Losing Petey reinforced my desire to do all of the above.

Because “sometimes there ain’t later.”

(Adapted from my “The Old Paths” newspaper column that I wrote two years ago for The Stokes News)

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