Monday, September 5, 2011

Summer 2011 retrospective

It’s Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer and the incontrovertible end of vacation. School starts tomorrow morning; time to close out summer of 2011.

Somehow I didn’t expect to enjoy this summer as much as I did. For one thing, I was concerned that it was front-loaded: my big trip to Colorado happened at the end of June, before the kids were even done with school yet. Arriving home still days before July began, I was sure it would be all downhill from there.

But it wasn’t. Lots more good things happened, though none were perhaps as intellectually or artistically inspiring as the five days at the Aspen Summer Words writers’ conference. Still, the summer had all kinds of unexpected highlights. I won’t soon forget the Old Home Day pet contest, in which Holly answered questions about Belle and won a gift certificate for a free ice cream cone. Or the crawfish boil at the home of friends, at which tiny crawfish tried to escape their fate by scrabbling across the patio just inches from the cauldron into which they were about to be dropped. Or the afternoon my friend Jane invited us over for a swim; I told the kids we could go at three and stay for just an hour, but at six o’clock Jane ordered pizzas and by sunset we were still sitting out by the pool, gabbing and drinking cocktails.

Work went on, as it must; I spent weekday mornings on the screen porch drafting articles and conducting phone interviews. It’s among the best office views I’ve ever had, facing into a thick grove of oak trees that border the state park. Often I could hear voices drift through the woods as hikers made their way along the park trails. “Internship in Costa Rica….” Floated over one day. “…accept one more dinner invitation” another.

I tried jet-skiing for the first time, on Lake Chatauqua in western New York during our late August travels. While I’m glad to be able to say I’ve tried it, jet-skiing is definitely not something I’m in any hurry to repeat. As I see it, enjoying the outdoors should ideally involve either contemplative silence or some degree of physical exertion, or both, as well as a lot less fuel output than jet-skiing allows.

We had a handful of beach days: Crane’s Beach in early July, the air hot and still and the water icy cold; Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport a week later, where in the course of three hours I caught up on the past year in my friend Courtney’s life while the kids jumped in the waves; Moody Beach in Wells, Maine, where my friend Renee and I power-walked for almost two hours along the shoreline; Higgins Beach in Scarborough earlier this weekend, where Tim and Holly and their friends built an enormous heap out of seaweed while my friend Nicole and I got completely caught up on the goings-on of each other’s summers.

We saw my older sister and her family for the first time in a year; they had spent the previous twelve months in Germany, and it was wonderful to catch up with all of them over several meals and drop-in visits during their two weeks in Carlisle. I met up for a lunch date with my friend Tracey, whom I hadn’t seen in nineteen years. Facebook brought us back in touch and her trip to Boston from Los Angeles gave us the chance for a get-together, and it was fascinating to hear what the past two decades had held for her.

For sports, the summer included boating, walking, biking, swimming and of course running. There were summer meals, outdoor concerts, baseball games, bonfires with s’mores. There was a heat wave with temperatures spiking well over one hundred, and a hurricane that turned out to be picturesque but not particularly scary.

The kids say they’re not ready to go back to school. While I don’t feel fully ready to transition into fall mode, I’m starting to feel a little bit ready for the seasons to change. Yesterday morning, for the first time all summer, I woke up and greeted the thought of my morning run with something decidedly less than enthusiasm. The humidity has started to be a real impediment to me when running, and I wasn’t looking forward to another draggy slog through the warm damp air. I went anyway, but just for two miles rather than the four or five that a Sunday morning usually merits.

Maybe in the fall, my enthusiasm for longer running routes will return. I know once school begins, I’ll be excited about all the new beginnings that September holds. But today is the last day of summer, even if not officially, and I’m still thinking about what a great summer it turned out to be.

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