Monday, August 21, 2006

The fading light of August

Oh, the dog days of summer. How we curse them now; how we'll long for them come winter.

There is a certain light in August, a particular way the sun sets through the late afternoon haze, through the stifling, overpowering layer of heat that lingers, clinging to you like a mosquito sucking blood. It defines us as Southerners. It's also why we don't sit out on the front porch anymore.

Air conditioning, no less than emancipation and Reconstruction, sent the Old South the way of the wind.

Some good remains, though. Like storytelling.

Go ahead and admit it. Southerners are the best weavers of words.

It's OK. You can pretend to like Updike and Hawthorne and Hamill. But put them up against Faulkner and Foote. See what I mean?

Who couldn't love Foote? God rest his soul. That great voice, that courtly manner. You think you're going to get that from some Yankee? Not hardly. One of these days I'm finally going to finish his Homeric journey through the War.

Even our generals are poetic in death. Take Stonewall Jackson. No messy finales for Thomas J. In a clear voice that fateful Sunday, he was heard to say, "Let us cross the river and rest awhile under the shade of the tree."

Under a shade tree seems like a fitting place to be in late summer. Even after twilight, when the sun sleeps and the glaring realities of day give way to the mysteries of the night, the heat remains.

Nothing good comes from this month. School. High electricity bills. Even Elvis checked out during August. They say his heart gave way. I'm not so sure he just didn't get overheated.

Shouldn't complain though. The lifeless days of winter will soon appear, and with them that familiar gray malaise.

"Oh," we'll say then, "can't wait for warmth, for summertime."

We humans are a funny sort.

So what the heck. Push the sun back up into the clouds. Let's enjoy the fading light of August.

Forgive me, though, if I stand a little closer to the shade.


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