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OPINION | Summer, who?

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HAGÅTÑA—I have found that around here, and probably everywhere else, people divide into two very distinct groups this time of the year: those who mourn the passing of summer, and those who dance as it bids adieu. I, myself, have never shed a single tear during these days.

To wit, this weekend I hauled all the summer furniture off the patio and marched it downhill into the shed in the lower garden. Historically, this task is undertaken by a pair of much younger paid helpers because it is a real pain in the neck. There is, as I’ve said, the severe slope between the patio and the storage shed. The several wicker and metal chairs are bulky, you can only hold one at a time so you need to take over a dozen trips; that’s twelve trips without being able to see your feet because you’re holding the pieces in front of you. You hope you don’t make a misstep and topple over on a brick or timber, or a hard section of flagstone.

Then there are the cushions and throw pillows that easily outnumber the aforementioned dozen chairs. Some are so large that you can only carry them one at a time, too; so by this time, you are sweating, a lot. The sweet smell of salt and hot flesh draws the last of the mosquitos out from wherever they are, and you are mercilessly feasted upon.

But I don’t care. I am officially done with summer.

Though there are still many blooms in the pots and borders, they are feverishly cut back in preparation for winter, still two seasons away. Annual blooms that remain vibrant and strong get cut and saved for seeds, then mowed down and discarded. Other foliage that might be able to withstand a cold month or two are removed from their decorative outdoor vessels, divided and placed in ugly recycled plastic pots so they can keep indoors until next May.

Gardens and borders that have been lovingly dug, tended, fertilized and watered daily in the previous four months are suddenly gone. And, if you ask me, not soon enough.

There is something quite profound about a memory of something that was once so vibrant. This is perhaps my greatest motivation for why I so speedily surge from the summer into autumn. The late August and early September days are haggard, lawns are beaten down from dog and human traffic, fields are wilting and the air is cloudy with late pollen that lands on windows and car hoods, settling into films of sticky dust.

Late summer is like a kid who has played all day without a care and returns home unrecognizably filthy in dire need of a hot shower and bedtime. I don’t want my garden and patio to linger after a season in the sun. As the kid’s parent, I must scrub it clean and make it rest.

Indeed, if you ask me, the swiftest change is the most dignified.

I look at it this way: Like most gardeners, life in my mind is imposed upon my garden. It has been the location of many dreams and, somehow, it has also manifested several of my nightmares. In my head, I live at the end of a deep path that you barely detect from the road, but if you are lucky enough to cross it, you are swept up in a magical meandering through rooms that tell of my travels. The path is narrow and only wide enough to walk through, but on either side of it are features that only magic could make appear, so you look at them with the same wonder you look at the pyramids and say, “How did that get here without machines?”

The weeds are my insecurities: Bermuda grass is my fear of meeting new people; clover my addiction to Diet Coke; dandelions my stubborn belly fat. I pick at these until I am weary and lie to myself that they don’t exist, that I can overcome them. Yet they sprout, no matter how vigorously I try to eliminate them, despite the monumental effort I exert in vain.

Like me, the garden is no longer young. Parts of it have ceased to exist entirely. Weather and climate change have changed its shape. Areas once shaded are now parched by the sun and exposure to the wind because of a broken, long-forgotten limb. The same can be said of my middle-aged body. The backaches, the hairline recedes, the belly fat is here to stay. When my summer ends, I, too, hope to quickly become a memory of something lush and magical.

Wilting is never memorable, but flowers are always appropriate

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