When Summer Ends

The shadows are stretching long in Southampton this afternoon, as England and Moeen Ali took India’s last few wickets, clinching the series victory. As a neutral, I was hoping of course for an Indian win so the fifth Test would be the decider instead of the dead rubber it will now be. But, alas, no. England found a way. Somehow. And with the series now clinched, you can almost feel summer start to fade, for fall and winter and dark and cold to start to seep in around the edges of the world. Summer doesn’t ever end on September 21st. Instead, there’s always this little moment that signals the quiet beginning of its long, slow journey into the night.

I’ve written about this before.

Sometimes summer ends when the Twins are knocked out of the playoffs. I remember 2002. Listening in the kitchen of our apartment downtown as the Angels won game five and ended the Twins’ run as my stepfather lay stroke riddled in a hospital in the suburbs. It was almost as if you could feel summer start to lift and peel away. In 2003 my wife and I watched the Twins lose to the Yankees and then took a walk around Lake Phalen and it was as if the whole city was outside, mourning the winter to come. In recent years, it’s been days like today, when the English cricketing summer ends. The long shadows, the late afternoons, that undefinable feeling of a series coming to end, the players tired, the crowd (usually) sparse on some quiet Monday as the England team bumps fists and walks off, not to be seen again until spring. But other times it’s not about sports at all. Sometimes it’s a quiet bike ride and you are just over come with the feeling of: summer is ending, today summer is ending. In the States, this feeling usually comes for most on Labor day weekend — this weekend — because school traditionally starts on the Tuesday after the long weekend. You walk the streets on that bank holiday Monday and see that the Sumacs are already turning and you get wistful and melancholy but in that nice way, you know, fresh school clothes, change, a clean slate.

This year, though, I didn’t get a summer.

There’s no easy way to say it, so I will just say it: on May the 4th (Stars War day), my marriage ended. A 19 year relationship. A 16 year marriage. Well, almost, in both cases. Out of fairness to everyone, I won’t go into any details. But I have spent the entire summer in this state of mourning. Like, the sun never came out. Not once. I had never had a summer. Those long, perfect days of June I spent in a quiet new apartment next to a bakery in the West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul, feeling this weight on my chest, crushing me. Or, more accurately, like my insides were slowly being scooped out, and left to rot on the sidewalk.

Summer never came. And now it’s already gone.

My weekends were lonely and quiet. I went on some bike rides, maybe one or two, I had a couple nice evenings on patios drinking with friends, but mostly, I was alone, and hurting, and unable to reach out. I didn’t sleep. I was always exhausted. Nothing stemmed the flood from the hole that was in me, that had been carved out and allowed to bleed. Time passed like a dying fire, sinking into itself. It wasn’t living, it was breathing. And with each hour that passed, I felt summer slipping away from me, and I felt my old life slipping away from me. Forever. And now England are walking off the pitch, the shadows long, and tomorrow is Labor Day, and all I want is to, somehow, push the sun back into the sky, and give us all one more day of summer.

That last line is from the deeply flawed but also magical Kevin Costner baseball film, For Love of the Game.

I don’t know who wrote that. Whether it was the screenwriter, or if it was a Vin Scully ad lib, or if it was the author of the original novel (written by Michael Shaara, randomly, that guy who wrote all those Civil War novels), but it’s perfect writing. And it’s how I feel right now, as I sit in my kitchen and watch the squirrels on the trees furiously work to prepare for the coming of the long dark winter in the north:

And you know Steve you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.

“Against the future, against age … against ending.”

But that’s the thing. For me and Billy Chapel and for those English cricketing fans enjoying the sun on their backs in Southampton one last time and for those kids dreading the start of the school year, we should never pitch against the future. We should lean into the future. Yeah, I didn’t get a summer this year. But I will get a summer again, God willing. We all will get a summer again. Let’s lean into that future. Not just the summers, but the falls and the winters and the springs. Let’s not mourn the death of a season, but the instead revel in the start of a new one. We can fight against time, against aging, against ending, but in truth, happiness is not in the delay of time, but in the accepting of its inevitable advance. For, no matter how we try, time keeps moving.

To paraphrase Hanif Abdurraqib: today I am sad. I was sad yesterday. And I might be sad tomorrow. But today I watched Arsenal play with the sun on their backs in Wales, and today I listened to this band out of Brooklyn called Wild Pink sing about sitting on a hill top and watching smoke drift out of chimneys, and today I held in my hands a picture of me from a time when I was not sad, where I am young and I have a smirk and there’s light in my eyes. Today I am sad. But tomorrow I might not be.

And that’s the promise of time.

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