Had T.S. Eliot lived in coastal Texas, he might have chosen August rather than April to be his cruelest month: bringing, as August does, a wasteland of over-heated concrete, limp vegetation, and silent birds.
Picking lethargically at their food, the birds show little more interest in the world around them than their increasingly silent, sighing human companions. Caught between memories of the delicate, blooming spring and desire for October’s cooling winds, spirits grow dull, insensate: failing to revive even when washed by overheated rain.
Coastal summers have their pleasures, to be sure, but those pleasures evoke a certain ambivalence. No carefree romp through soft, bending grasses here, or long, pensive walks along cooling shores. More commonly, summer ends as a grimly determined march through heat and humidity, interspersed with episodes of cabin fever associated with too much time in overly air-conditioned buildings.
Still, there are moments. A bit of dew sparkling on morning grass betokens cooler nights. A ripple of birdsong catches the breeze, then flies away into silence. Shades at the window take on a different tilt, and from seemingly impenetrable walls of green, bits of red and yellow yield to gravity, circling back to earth’s receptive soil.
On such mornings, Summer turns like a waking child: lazy, but willing to consider the day. Her visit nearly ended, she rises to ready herself for leave-taking — a subtle and nearly silent process unmarked by the inattentive.
Some have seen that preparation, and taken time to record its gentle necessities. Emily Dickinson’s recognition of Summer’s departure, and acknowledgement of the graces overflowing the interstices between seasons, invites us to remember that grace as well. As a gardener, she experienced Summer’s leaving. As a poet, she captured it, and held it forever.
The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing, Grace
As Guest that would be gone —
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
~ Emily Dickinson