Sarah Smith Nessel — Yesterdays and tomorrows hang in the balance of seasons

09/17/2013 5:11 PM

09/17/2013 5:12 PM

Goodbye, summer.

I’ve held onto you for a bit longer than I usually do. The neighborhood kids went back to class more than a month ago, before your late-season heat blast. You couldn’t just softly slip away below the equator, could you? You had to remind us that you, not the school calendar, are in charge.

Every year at this time, I watch you fade: The flowers along my driveway shrivel, all brown and stemmy, while the shells of cicadas cling to tree trunks. The angle of sunlight in the afternoon shifts, and one morning I notice that it’s still dark out when I come downstairs.

You’re not my favorite season anymore. But you knew that, didn’t you? I don’t soak up your sun like I did when I was young. People with my complexion belong far away from you, in the fog of northern Europe, where my ancestors lived and died for centuries.

I wonder if they mourned seasons, or if they were too absorbed with survival to spend time on such things. Sitting in a climate-controlled 21st-century house typing words onto a screen for a living puts me at such a remove from them that I can’t even guess.

Decades ago, I read a beautiful essay about you, summer. It was composed in this same style, as a letter. My writing skills can’t even stand in the shadow of that piece, but ever since I read it, I’ve wanted to write to you, too. (I never claimed to be original; I hope you’ll forgive me.)

The essay included one line I’ve never forgotten: “There have been more yesterdays than there will be tomorrows.”

I read that line and wondered if I had seen more yesterdays than I would tomorrows. Back then, there was a reasonable chance that the answer was no.

Now that the answer is almost certainly yes, I don’t take you, or any other season, for granted. I love your broiling heat, and I love winter’s blizzards. I look forward to thunderstorms and ice storms, windy Marches and crisp Octobers.

I love all these things even though — or most likely, because — I live a mostly indoor existence. I see the glow of screens day and night, but the glow of the moon is a special treat.

Can I tell you a secret, summer? One of my favorite musings is to imagine what the patch of land I live on, now in a cozy suburban neighborhood, looked like a hundred years ago. And what it might look like a hundred years from now. And a thousand years, and ten thousand.

I’ll never know. But you will. You were there way back when my little patch of land was at the bottom of a sea, and you’ll be there long after everything I know and love is gone.

Many who have passed through my life have already gone, some at much younger ages than I am now. I think of them every year, when I notice you leaving.

I’ll miss you, summer. Not just this year, when you were kind, but next year, too, if I’m lucky enough that we meet again.


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