The lazy heat of summer’s last act

The lazy heat of summer’s last act
By Aaron J. Brown

In the pioneer days of Minnesota, sod huts overflowing with Scandinavian stoicism, summer was a time of endless work. From sunup to sundown men and women toiled to complete tasks necessary for the family to survive the long, coming winter. I imagine some of my ancestors lived this way, either here or in the Old Country, and this cultural norm remains imprinted on my psyche.

I know this because I feel genuine guilt for playing outside in the sunshine after I finished teaching a summer class over the internet last week. I must now complete tasks necessary for me to survive the long, coming semester. But it is warm. Minnesota warm, I grant you, but we all know…


… it’s going away sooner than later. The raspberries are in and the children’s footprints are beginning to appear higher and higher up the walls.

The landscaping project we’ve imagined so long has gone through an almost legislative paring process. What was to be a 20-foot shrub-festooned eye-catcher, gradually shrunk in theoretical size over the course of the summer until last week. It was then we decided that weeding around the hostas and fixing the garden edging that had wiggled up out of the ground was good enough. There is next year, of course.

There is always another time and another year to do so many things. It feels like procrastination but, and bear with me here, that is not always the case. Sometimes there is only one time to experience a season. August is that time for so many people. It’s the vacation season. The time of rest after a busy stretch of activities for the kids. No major holidays, so only the countdown — to school, to work, to snow, to the new year.

I get in trouble because I like to sleep late in August. It’s a vestigial remainder of the way I lived in high school, working nights, and college, writing a darkened dorm room, feeling the rush of midnight energy. The problem is my life has seldom allowed these sleep patterns since. Except, of course, in August. I wake up at 8:30. After making sure that coffee is still good and that the internet is still there (yes and yes) I find myself lamenting that there isn’t much time until it’s time to feed the kids (me) lunch. And then the refrain: “It’s a beautiful day.”

And it is.

We can also see the light slipping away from the evenings. The air bites when a cold front comes through. We don sweatshirts, quietly and occasionally. Suddenly, one of the younger boys is ready for his first bike ride on the paved road. There is a niece’s birthday and our 13th wedding anniversary. The night comes and we are tired, happy, and done with the very idea of work or chores.

These are modern conveniences, I know, and many among us don’t have the luxury of leisure, in summertime or anytime. There is the story of the grasshopper and ant, made only more relevant the high pitched hum of actual locusts in the tall grass along our property.

But there is also quite comfort in enjoying what you have. They say you never want if you want what you have, and this is the key to happiness. I only know that such words bring great legitimacy to my lackadaisical approach to early August.

Aaron J. Brown is an author from the Mesabi Iron Range and instructor at Hibbing Community College. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio (


This is my Sunday column for the Aug. 11, 2013 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece aired Saturday on the program “Between You and Me” on Northern Community Radio.

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