A couple of weeks ago, I was driving in a part of Maine that I am not familiar with and it was a typical August day. Hot, sticky and heavy-laden.
I drove up through the hollers near Black Mountain, the road winding in sharp curves, the lush of summer’s tall field grasses and wildflowers lining the asphalt on both sides of the road.
Wild country is here, mixed with a picket-fence congeniality on one side, and a rusted unfriendliness and washed out drive-way on the other.
One side says “welcome”, the other, “keep out.”
I drive around one corner and come upon a perfectly preserved New Englander with forest green trim set against stark white clapboards. Geraniums fill pots on the porch and down past an old well, a 40 by 40 garden spills, corn already up over a man’s head. I drive around the next corner and the trees have closed in over the road like a big a leaf tunnel, my view dark as twilight even in mid-day. Tucked inside the overgrowth on the left sits a small building, tin-roofed and tar-papered in places. A pick up truck is parked next to piles of trash, broken toys and parts of an old refrigerator.
The first house stands up tall, smiling for everyone to see.
Look how pretty I am. Come! Come in! The second house sulks, backing up into the darkness, almost wanting to stay hidden. It whispers, it’s all gone now.
All on a day’s drive, light and dark, life and death, side by side
This is August.
I was born in this month and I’ve always carried with me its sense of something fading, almost bleeding into something new.
August is a month when the sun brims hot and the landscape swelters, but on some days it lets autumn come close and linger at its doorstep. August, especially near the end, is a threshold between what is withering and what is about to come to life in living color.
What was growing since spring has become fat, bursting, sagging and succulent.
August is a juice running down your chin kind of month.
It is also a fraying at the edges season. The tips of the lily leaves are burnt. The weeds have taken the walkway hostage.
When I was little, I spent hours lying in fields looking up at the sky, wondering about everything. I became familiar with the changes summer brought and when August came and I lay in the field, the grass would be stiff and dry, not pliable and wet like they were in June and July.
Indian paintbrushes circled around my body and I saw how the blooms were black then red then orange, like the embers on the end of a burning log. My legs itched from the flower’s stems scratching the backs of my thighs. I hated to lay on them. I hated to see them bent. Even as a child I could see the beginning of the end.
August is a time to celebrate all that life can be in its fullness, taking in every minute we can because we know that she is also pointing to a time when all of it will retreat back into the earth where it came from in the first place.
The good news is, this future that August points to will not happen before one glorious, color-splashed, fresh air breathing thing.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot…