August

For a while this summer I wasn’t sure I’d be ready for autumn to arrive. I don’t know what it’s been like where you live, but this summer has been unnaturally cool and breezy here in Pittsburgh. The temperature rarely broke eighty degrees through June and July, and as often as not it hovered somewhere in the high sixties. During our vacation, S. and I wore jeans and and long-sleeved t-shirts most of the time, the evenings calling for indoor fires, wool socks and blankets.

“It’s  going to be difficult to appreciate fall, when summer never really came,” I complained to S. somewhere around the end of July.

And then, in your typical be careful what you wish for fashion, August arrived, ushering in a wave of heat and humidity so unrelenting it’s left me cursing this city, this state, this place we chose to live that, no matter how often native Pittsburghers claim their three rivers qualify as bodies of water, has me keening for the beaches and lakes of my youth. What good is heat and humidity if there isn’t a beach to escape to, a lake to continually submerge oneself in?

Despite my best efforts to keep the doors closed and the ceiling fans running at maximum capacity, the heat has seeped through the walls of this old house so when I walk through the hallways the warmth of the hard wood floors penetrates my bare feet; the walls are practically sweating. We have one window unit air-conditioner for the entire house and it is fixed, inexplicably, in the guest room, where the dog and I have been sleeping while S. is on an extended business trip. At this point the air-conditioner is nothing more than a nod to the humidity, losing its battle against August.

With S. gone, all attemps at civilized behavior have disappeared from this house. Oh, I managed to attend an early morning yoga class, and yesterday I swam laps at the gym, and I even spent much of the weekend cleaning – the floors have been mopped, the bedrooms cleaned, but otherwise the dog and I, well, we have descended into our own war against the heat. Dinner consisted, for me, for most of the week, of nothing more than a peach or and an apple, some hummus, maybe a slice of cheese. Occasionally, a bowl of french vanilla icecream worked for dinner, as well. Skylar has taken the heat not well at all and spends much of his time nosing his food bowl and then collapsing onto the floor, as though to say this again? It’s much too hot for Iams lamb and rice formula. How about a slice of brie, maybe share your apple? The amount of time I’ve spent trying to convince him to go outside to “do his business,” as we refer to it in our household, is extraordinary. We are engaged in our own small battle of the wills – the dog demonstrating that nothing short of a squirrel parade could entice him into the backyard – me convinced he is going to get some sort of bladder infection or gastrointestinal blockage if he doesn’t go to the damn bathroom.

When we haven’t been locked in this strange pas de deux, or staring disappointedly at our dinners, we’ve been napping – long, deep afternoon naps that, and I think I can speak for the dog here, leave us both wondering where we are when we wake up.

Yesterday I came home from the pool. I had thrown my shorts and tank top on directly over my swimsuit, a level of I Don’t Give a Damn I rarely reach. It was sprinkling as I drove home, and recognizing it as probably the coolest part of the day, I decided to walk the dog in the rain. After the usual three minutes spent running around the house in a spasm of joy at the sight of his leash (you would think we never allowed him to stretch his legs), Skylar and I left the house, the rain already letting up. We wandered slowly around the park, peeing on trees and flirting with girls (my dog, in both cases, obviously), and it was during our meander that I noticed some of the early leaves had fallen from the trees.  The leaves hadn’t begun to change color but there they were, anyway, lightly dusting the park with the promise of autumn.

We came home. I sat on the back porch while Skylar graced the yard with his presence. The sky had begun to clear, and I noticed that the sky was a deeper blue than it had been all summer, no longer the blinding, brilliant cerulean of July but a mellower, gentler, darker blue.  The breeze that had ushered in the unexpected rain rustled the leaves of our gargantuan summer squash plant, which had dropped much of its fruit over night. I grabbed a basket and pulled squash, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes from our garden and Skylar nosed around, brought me his tennis ball for a couple of throws. We played for a bit, and I thought about how grateful I felt, to notice the shift in the seasons. Oh, the sun still beat down on us, the air still seeped with humidity, my clothes still clung in all the wrong places, but the shift in the sky, the breeze, the leaves – they all promised the turn of the season  is not far away.

Sometimes I rush too much – it’s one of my biggest flaws. Even my dad, one of the most worried people I know, on a day to day basis, tells me I have to engage more with the moment, to look around and say I am okay, and my family is okay, and if I am not doing something for this moment in time, that is okay, too. Yesterday, with my arms full of vegetables, my dog awaking momentarily from his stupor, my limbs feeling long and loose from my swim, I was able to breath in the change, to feel the pulse of the imperceptible change of seasons, and I felt so grateful – grateful for a late-summer heat that discourages appetite and encourages dream-laden naps, for the first bite of a cold peach, for rainstorms that bring breezes, and for breezes that bring rain. I felt so grateful that for one long weekend I could shut my mind off and recognize that I am okay, and my family is okay, and really it is all okay –

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8 Responses to August

  1. appellationmountain says:

    Walks in the rain! I remember that from living in the ‘burgh without A.C. Thanks for bringing that back … it really was one of those joyful things that I’d completely forgotten.

  2. Noble Savage says:

    Your dad is a wise man.

  3. gumbomum says:

    Love what your dad said. LOVE it.

    Loved this whole post, too.

  4. catharina says:

    I discovered your blog only yesterday. And then this moving post. What a lovely way to start my day.

  5. litlove says:

    Beautifully written, Courtney. And here’s to fall.

  6. shoreacres says:

    If only I’d known – I would have sent you Houston’s heat to help you out in June and July. My summer’s goal was to work half-time during August. Unfortunately, August arrived in June. I have a screen shot of a 138 degree heat index, a new appreciation of just how sneaky dehydration can be and a hunger for autumn that’s nearly overwhelming.

    You captured “heat” beautifully, particularly with your references to the heat of the hardwood floors, and heat seeping through the walls. As for dinner ~ I call summer the “cereal season”. It’s on the dinner menu a good bit.

  7. Andi says:

    Lovely writing and absolutely spot on idea. I am learning to appreciate my own excitement about things that I anticipate – to revel in that moment, too, as much as I will revel in the ones I anticipate. Thanks for this on this hot, steamy morning in Virginia.

  8. Meriah says:

    Really lovely writing. Sometimes I’m just in awe of the way you write and describe things. Happy Autumn!

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