The Sunday Magazine

September need not be the end of summer - Michael's essay

As cool winds set in, we are constantly reminded of the inevitability of winter. Even though September signifies darkness, it is also a reminder that summer's warmth will re-emerge again.
The luscious leaves of summer start to fall from the trees as September drags on. The Sunday Edition's Michael Enright says that September is 'the great winding down. The pivot time when our minds have to be reset, our inner compasses boxed.' (Ian Black/CBC)

For me there are few sadder sights than a school yard in late August.

All the accoutrements are in place. The empty swings still swing. The white baseball lines are in place, but barely visible. If there is grass, it is tired, overdue for a trim.

What is missing is sound. The screams, the laughter, the pitta-pat stomp of small sneakers. The children in all their kinetic glory.

The last week of August, in our tradition, is the last week of summer, although fall doesn't come officially until September 22nd. It is the great winding down. The pivot time when our minds  have to be reset, our inner compasses boxed.

Growing up in the big city, the last week of August was something to be endured. The toxic phrase, Back-To-School Supplies, surrounded us like soulless mosquitos.

School, which had successfully been effaced from our cerebral cortex in late June, was becoming a looming reality.

We tried desperately to stuff into those seven days those things we missed in the high summer.

Once, just once, let me successfully turn a double play.

Let me find the key to my bicycle lock. We jumped the turnstiles to get into the CNE for free and headed to the Pure Food building for the handouts. 

We pleaded with our parents to skip the haircut and the new shoes.

When Shakespeare said "Summer's lease has all too short a date," he wasn't kidding.

In the dying days of August, the skies start to grow darker earlier. The sun takes its own sweet time to rise in the morning.

The warming summer winds still blow, but their breath is weaker. There is a tang in the air, a bit of a chill.  Nothing serious, but perhaps tonight we won't need the fan.

In the dying days of August, the skies start to grow darker earlier. The sun takes its own sweet time to rise in the morning.- Michael Enright

September is a time of new beginnings. And a return to old ones.

School, home from the cottage and summer camp, back to the workplace with something approaching mild enthusiasm.

Despite the weather, Canadians can take only so much summer.

September is a kind of prep time, an anteroom to fall and winter. The L.L. Bean catalogues jam the mailbox offering Farmer Brown shirts and thick socks. 

Our minds turn to the unsettling reality that we will soon have to return to our indoor lives.

As the summer winds to a close, '[o]ur minds turn to the unsettling reality that we will soon have to return to our indoor lives', writes Enright. (Submitted by Warren Maloney)

At the same time, we have to remember that September is notorious for dark things.

In his poem September 1, 1939, poet W.H. Auden warned of the coming horrors in the "darkened lands of the earth."

And "The unmentionable odor of death 

Offends the September night."

Hitler invaded Poland in early September and touched off the deadliest war in human history.

And of course 9/11 entered our terrorism vocabulary in September 2001. 

Henry David Thoreau said that "One must maintain a little bit of summer even in the middle of winter."

With Albert Camus, we discover, "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."

That's the lesson of September. 

As we watch the leaves turn, as we feel the crisp days and growing chill in the air, as we realize that February is not that far away, we will have September with its memory of gentle winds and its message that winter is a sometime thing; summer is forever.

Click 'listen' above to hear Michael's essay. 


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