Summer’s last sweet gasp | Columnists |

2022-09-10 14:23:00 By : Mr. Drew yao

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The weather was superb — no, perfect — when I took a walk last week. It was 74 degrees, and the sun was as sweet as a warm bath. A few lazy clouds drifted by overhead. Breezes tickled the little sunflowers and black-eyed Susans along my path.

When summer begins to yawn, it’s the best time of the year.

Ripening tomatoes, zucchini, beans and cucumbers overflow in our gardens. Robust corn stalks stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the fields. Farmers’ wagons, overflowing with corn plucked from the fields just hours before, offer their bounty. Colorado peaches have arrived, too, and apples soon will be ready to pick at Apple Acres.

I always get sad and wistful when September arrives. Sure, the sun has been slowly, silently sliding south since late June, but I’ve barely noticed. It hangs high in the sky all summer long, blessing us with long days for swimming, fishing, picnics, reunions, car shows, rodeos and small-town festivals. Even now, two months after that solstice, we can still walk the dog, play baseball and pedal our bikes long after dinner.

Alas, all that is coming to an end. I resist like the worn-out preschooler who protests bedtime.

When I moved to Kearney in 2012, new friends said fall was their favorite season. I didn’t understand. Back home in Cleveland, summer was the most glorious time of year. Temperatures rarely nudged 90, and 75 (“pleasant,” forecasters said) was not uncommon. Every few days, refreshing rains drenched gardens. We swam in Lake Erie and had picnics in parks green with forests, bridle paths, wide meadows and bubbling creeks winding through the woods.

When Kearney friends defined summer as “too hot,” I scratched my head until I finally remembered my family’s travels by car across the Great Plains in the early 1960s. In Pratt, Kansas, a thermometer said 101 degrees at noon under clear, cloudless skies.

Back then, cars lacked air-conditioning, so we rolled down all the windows and put up with those vicious gales of hot air that had our hair whipping around like tall grass. Anything to stay cool.

Now that I live in the Great Plains, I sympathize with your preference for fall — but not so fast.

Summer has zipped by faster than a furious firefly. Summer is travel, swimming, kayaking, fishing, boating, horseback riding and camping. It’s long visits with grandparents and summer jobs for teenagers, but sometimes I think I am the only one in the modern world who cherishes it.

Learning of a different kind thrives in the summer, but since it’s outside the classroom, it’s dismissed. Stern authorities order us to stamp out the fun and put our proverbial noses back on the grindstone like bloodhounds.

It’s still two weeks before autumn officially takes the stage, but Kearney schools and the University of Nebraska at Kearney resumed classes several weeks ago. The football season has kicked off, too. Swimming pools slashed their hours because the lifeguards have gone back to school. We’re strangely impatient to delete much from the most glorious time of the year.

The school year here ends in mid-May when nights are still frosty, and then it resumes when it’s too hot to play football or park ourselves for hours inside an un-air-conditioned classroom. That’s like going to bed at 8 p.m. and getting up at 4 a.m. Those are monastery hours.

I will always miss autumn back home. It’s an explosion of reds, scarlets, oranges, golds and yellows in the forests, and hayrides and fruit farms groan with apples and pumpkins.

Here in Nebraska, I’ve learned that autumn is about the harvest, so I’ve embraced that. I’ve ridden in a combine. I’ve watched the grain trucks lumber down the highway to the grain elevator. I’ve listened to bugling elk at Rocky Mountain National Park and explored dusty treasures at the Junk Jaunt in late September.

As I paddle serenely down these late summer days, I believe that summer will last forever, but if I look behind me, I see fall’s little fingers gripping that kayak, trying to climb in. Soon, they will get in. They always do.

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