Thus ends summer, crying over the sink

PHOTO: Aaron J. Brown

The end of summer staggers into the house, sometimes drunk, sometimes just tired and sweaty. Summer drops its keys under the hook and doesn’t bother to pick them up. Maybe next year.

It’s not fall yet. Fall is still upstairs trying on red, orange and yellow hoodies while the pumpkin spice coffee brews in the pot. There’s a sexy orca Halloween costume in Fall’s Amazon cart, but Fall hasn’t clicked submit.

No, Fall’s not due for a while, so this is still Summer, but you just have to know that Summer can’t even. Not anymore. Summer’s eating mealy watermelon over the sink so it doesn’t go to waste. Summer is crying a little. Not sure why.

The end of summer comes in stages, different for each of us. As a college teacher, my summer ended last week when we started attending meetings. Sometimes it’s hot outside when we have the meetings. Some of us wear shorts, our hairy Easter ham thighs tucked under the tables. I grew a mangy mustache over the summer wondering if it would survive to this point. It has, but at what cost?

Classes start next week. We pull the business casual vestments of credibility over our soft bodies. Pants season arrives long before the last 80-degree day. Cool mornings disguise hot afternoons. A crumpled jacket rides in the back seat indefinitely. This is one stage in the end of summer.

Summer ends for school kids after Labor Day. At least that’s still true in Minnesota, where we still imagine ourselves a haven of agrarian child labor. The kids are actually sprawled across the davenport. They ask what’s for dinner when we get home from work. Their final days of summer come late, and we welcome the transition.

Labor Day also ushers in a new phase of tourism in these North Woods. Leaf peepers replace vacationers; retirees on comically wide motor bikes usurp families in minivans. In three short months, hard-edged snowmobilers with 9-day beards will rule them all. Listen for their melodic call, bellowed from the parking lot of the bar on the edge of town: “HEY Dwa Owe Ay OWE, right? HAR HAR HAR!” That’s winter. But I get ahead of myself.

The meteorologists predict a mild winter, not so much snow and a little warmer than usual. That means that procrastinating on outdoor projects will extend as late as Thanksgiving.

I think about the elevated bird feeder I was planning. Quikrete and treated lumber. Post holes and reasons not to try. This is my fifth year not building a sauna and my third not building a wood shed because I thought that would be easier.

The garden produced more tomatoes and fewer beans this year. At least January pasta will feature fresh sauce. Twelve hours kitchen labor saved at least $35 dollars, minus the freezer bags. The sunflowers grew enormously tall, but are a little late on their blooms. I’m going to leave them up longer so the bird food doesn’t rot in the garage like last year. The marigolds I planted from seed grew tall but bloomed sparsely.

The end of summer is the realization of everything that was not to be, each year’s recurring midlife crisis.

Stop and smell the roses, they say, but what do you smell just after the roses curl up and die? Crinkly tomato leaves and Canadian smoke. When the night air turns cold you imagine that next year will be different. One way or another, that will be true.

So, take a seat. Wait for Fall to arrive, and she soon will. She knows what to do with this mess. Until then, it’s still summer. That’s what they say.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.

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