Summer is over. Or is it?
This will be a meandering piece about summer, with connections to reading, baseball, the calendar, kids, and the rhythms of life.
Books and baseball
People still have summer reading lists, right? Maybe not so much anymore. I spied the quip below on a ne’er-do-well’s Facebook page recently, in the spot where one’s favorite book title is supposed to be:
I thought, Well, I’m guessing you don’t read much, because you didn’t capitalize that or put a question mark after the question. (This same person had proudly posted a video of herself drunk while playing video games, so I guess I wasn’t all that surprised.)
My summer reading list, if it really existed at all, was phantom-like. Recent book grabs include one that presents three views on God’s will and decision making, a Duck Dynasty biography (couldn’t stand much!), and a Stephen Colbert book (I wish he weren’t so caustically one-sided, because he’s genuinely funny). On my active shelf are a book on the history of words in religion, a history of the Silk Road, and two volumes on the kingship of God. This summer, I have read some poetry, a little on baseball, and a few pages each from Richard Hughes and Frederick Buechner, plus a few other things. Oh, and I’ve spent some time reading and studying an ancient, mid-length letter from Paul, including reading two paragraphs in Greek. Sounds like a lot of reading time, you say? Nah. I’m talking about a total of less than 10 hours there. Pitiful, I know. And the progress in writing my own next book has been precisely nil this summer.
Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer, a book about the Brooklyn Dodgers, is legendary. My dad’s copy of that one remains where he would have seen it, high on a shelf in his/Mom’s study. On a lower bookshelf in our home sits Dad’s coffee-table-sized book that chronicles baseball’s summers of ’47-’57 in the lives of the three New York teams—the Dodgers, the Giants, and those dratted Yankees. The Dodgers and Giants moved to the West Coast in 1957, rendering summer fun permanently shut down for many.
Our family enjoyed seeing the KC Royals with a friend in Kauffman Stadium last Saturday. It was a sticky, muggy, summer night, but it was not overly hot, especially after the sun was hidden behind the stadium on the third-base side. This summer is not a good one for the Royals, to say the least. It was a great game, though: the last-place Royals, the 2nd-worst team in baseball, beat the even worse Orioles in the 9th.
Usually two or three times a summer, when I was a boy, my dad and I would go to the Vet to see Phillies games. There was one memorable, July 4th double header, at which a friend sat with Dad and me in the lowest seats, in straightaway center field, just above the outfield wall with the “408” painted on it in yellow. I’m not sure I’m creating memories like that for our son, but he has been to three Royals games, a Pirates game with cousins, and a Reds game before he could remember. He has also played baseball three summers in a row. According to his 2018 baseball season, summer lasted only about 6 weeks (May-June).
For me, despite one serendipitous baseball game I saw on a nice Minnesota afternoon while traveling, this summer has been the worst on record. It is not over yet?
Summer, school, and children
For children, summer is almost always something to which to look forward. They often have summer camp experiences. Manatawny, a Christian camp in Southeastern PA, was the thing that we kids looked forward to most. My sisters’ kids all go to similar camps now, too, and they seem to feel the same heart-tugs, while experiencing similar growth of all kinds. Then there is marching band camp, and several of my sisters’ kids are now doing that annually, too. Summer is certainly not all bad for kids.
For many, summer is over in the middle of August when school starts way too early. Two private colleges at which I’ve taught hold classes on Labor Day, having started a week or two previously. School always started the day after Labor Day when I grew up. According to just about every U.S. school calendar, summer is by now over for everyone.
Jedd has had some great times this summer (for example, a children’s play, baseball, some travel, a lake, cousins, and swimming). Speaking of swimming … they drained the town pool weeks ago here, which seems pretty ridiculous since summer persists. The heat and humidity (or just heat, or just humidity, but rarely any relief) have been oppressive and unrelenting for so long, it seems. We had a cold winter with little snow for playing, an almost nonexistent spring, and then this beastly summer. We’ve had, what, six or seven nice days since June?
Remember the TV show “In the Heat of the Night?” I never watched it, but I think it was based somewhat on the premise that crime heats up when the weather does the same. (When is it not hot in a Mississippi town?) I also recall an episode of M*A*S*H in which everyone’s nerves were frayed because of heat.
Last Sunday night, in the summertime cool of a Lutheran church building, I heard the Midwest Chamber Ensemble, and their opening selection was a rare performance of a work by Arthur Honegger titled Pastoral d’Ete (Summer Pastorale). This piece shimmered and sang, and it led me to think of other summer-oriented art music. . . .
- I have a CD of summer wind quintet music that includes Barber’s Summer Music, Op. 31, a provocative piece written well for the medium. I return to this disc often, including a couple times this summer.
- Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 is not a favorite of mine. (Few and far between are the sopranos I would listen to on purpose.) Berlioz’s Nuits d’Ete (Summer Nights) is more pleasing, but still, it’s a soprano. So, no thanks.
- As Summer Was Just Beginning, a simple, tuneful, elegiac tribute to the late James Dean, enjoyed at least a decade’s worth of appreciation in the wind band world, but the piece’s fame is now approaching its winter.
- Vivaldi’s “Spring” from The Four Seasons is well-known, but “Summer,” the second in the set, strikes me as more interesting. Actually, this Vivaldi string concerto hints more at fall for me, but maybe that’s because I like the still, sometimes melancholy beauty of fall. Then there is the tempest of the presto 3rd movement. (May there be no tempests in life this fall.)
- Frank Bridge’s tone poem Summer is simply wonderful. What glorious sounds! If I could rig some great speakers in a park, and if I could order a 70-degree, mosquito-less, summer night, I would sit out under a tree and listen to it again.
I remember a few summer evenings on the grounds of the Mann Music Center, north of Philadelphia, hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra free or at greatly reduced cost, with good friends. And all these thoughts of music evoke pleasant, breezy, relaxed feelings. Was this what Jim Seals & Dash Crofts were singing about? “Summer Breeze makes me feel fine….”? My summer of ’18 has not been blessed by many of those feelings.
So goodbye, summer of ’18. I’m done wid’ ya. I wish I could be assured that I’ll forget you, but I won’t be surprised if you haunt me. I wish I had seen and hiked in the Rockies this summer, but, failing that, come on, cooler weather and breezier, more chilled thoughts. Come on, fall concerts and crisp mornings with coffee on the deck. Maybe I’ll soon be able to walk 20 yards sans sweat or anxiety. Come on, Major League Baseball’s “Fall Classic.” Just come on, fall.