Wake me up when September ends

August 31, 2021

Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are

As my memory rests
But never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends

Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September end
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                                 -Green Day

 

Today it was a perfect, sunny, summer's day. The choking humidity of the past couple of weeks has been replaced by a clean, fresh breeze from the north, the deep blue sky hosted fluffy, fair-weather clouds, and the flowers and leaves seemed to be even more colourful and abundant, nourished by recent rains and freed from the oppressive heat.

Today is the 31st of August. Tomorrow, the calendar turns over to September and even though the same beautiful weather will be with us, something will be lost, relinquished. September has been hanging in the distance, awaiting us, but as long as it's still August it's easier to simply cling onto summer and pretend it is never going to end. September, however, forces the finality upon us. In August it was easy to ignore or deny early fall colours on a maple tree here and there, but in September that process will roar into high gear. September is also the month for back-to-school, ingrained in all of us as children, and for many of us who went onto teaching, it's been a transition that has marked our yearly rhythms for decades. This summer especially, it's a sea-change, since schools are intending to get back to normal in-person classes after a prolonged hiatus brought about by the pandemic. The adjustment is all the more challenging because of the long absence from this routine.

September also signifies the downward slope towards winter's dark, cold, snowy months, something I personally dread more and more each year. Soon, instead of heading cavalierly outdoors barefoot and in shorts, we'll have to be bundling into coats and mittens, and lacing up boots, then bracing against the cold despite all those layers. While we will still enjoy sunshiny, summery days, they will become fewer and farther between. The trees will shed all of their luxuriant foliage and stand grey and sad, frozen in sleep. Most of the birds will head for warmer climes, save for the sturdy jays and crows and cardinals, and the remarkable little chickadees. Chipmunks and squirrels and bears will tuck in for hibernation, and the moose and deer will yard themselves into hidden valleys and glens. The lakes and rivers will cool and crust over with ice, and snow will blanket them until they become indistinguishable from the solid ground that surrounds them. Everything in the landscape will meld into silent, monochrome stillness. September is when this paring away of energy and life starts to become evident; it's when the momentum truly turns.

If August is about stubbornly holding on to summer, September is about letting it go, and making peace, like it or not, with what comes next. It would perhaps be an exaggeration to qualify it as a grieving period, but there is undeniably a sense of loss, impotence, and resignation in the face of time's relentless march.

In a less literal way, September has of course come to symbolize loss in the human sense, ever since September 11, 2001. That day in September changed most of our lives, and not for the better. 

On a personal level, September is the month when my father received the diagnosis that his cancer was back, and terminal. I remember getting that news on a bright, blue afternoon in mid-September, and trying to reconcile the beauty of the day with the realization that my father would not see another summer.

Similarly, last September was when Soleil's health began to fail, though I tried to ignore the inchoate signs in the vain hope that it was not something sinister coming to take her. As September wore on, our walks became shorter and slower, and on one of those ambles around the village, I noticed orange flowers blooming abundantly in the churchyard. I photographed Soleil in front of them and made some lovely pictures. I discovered that these flowers have the ignominious name of ''sneezeweed''. The prettier, scientific name is Helenium Autumnale. Today, as I walked by the churchyard, the flowers were there again. And of course I thought of Soleil and missed her. 

Yesterday, when I was driving back from the grocery store, a feeling came over me quite suddenly and for no apparent reason. I have tried to capture it in the poem that follows. I'm sharing it here because it fits in with the September vibe. 

If I sound melancholy, I'm not. We all carry grief, and sometimes it feels necessary to articulate it, to speak it out loud, to not be afraid or ashamed of it. And September is as good as a time as any.

 

Without warning surges

a breathtaking yearning,

wishing the Lost One back

to be with you again,

here and now.

Is it the past calling you back

to a forgotten once-was?

Or the present voicing regret

for moving on without?

Or is it the thin place where

just for a brief breath or two,

in the time it takes to taste

stinging sweetness, impossible proximity,

a spirit’s touch shimmers,

inhabiting the empty  

space beside you,

And then

disappears

before you can grasp it.

Alone again,

the road unrolling ahead,

you chase

but never catch

racing shadows

of clouds scudding

along the asphalt.

 

 

 

 

 


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