Yesterday was the last day of summer.
In the United States it was anyway. And it’s of course a traditional last day rather than an actual last day. In the past, when we lived in a more agrarian society, school started the day after Labor Day so kids could spend as much time helping out on the farm as possible. Now that’s obsolete, and most schools start in mid-to-late August. Still, though, traditionally if unofficially, Labor Day is the last day of summer. Neighborhoods go quiet during the days. Traffic picks up. Work gets busy again. The whole vibe of the world changes. And with that change comes the melancholy of autumn, of missing yet another summer, of time and life passing you by. There’s this sense of a winding down, of loss, of aging.
And as summer slowly fades into fall, the Summer of Cricket fades away too. India’s entertaining tour of the West Indies has come to a close. New Zealand and Sri Lanka only have the one T20 left. The Ashes has life in it, and there’s hope there, and the County Championship goes for another few weeks. But we are in the falling action now. It’s slipping through our fingers.
Tomorrow is September 4th. That means it will have been 16 months since I left home. It feels like yesterday. It feels like a million years ago. And with each minute that passes it’s a another step away from the life I knew. It’s like my heart is slowly being peeled. With each season that drifts past, it gets harder. Never easier. That’s not how it all works. Our grief maybe gets smaller, but it also intensifies. Nick Cave — who knows a thing or two about grief — said that “if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal. That’s the pact. Grief and love are forever intertwined.” It’s not until I started writing this that I thought about that. There’s a reason I grieve for the life I walked away from.
I keep grasping for things that will help keep summer alive. The baseball season has a full month left. There are those two Ashes Tests mentioned above. Plus County Cricket. And for a lot of my readers, summer isn’t ending, it’s around the corner. In Australia, the AFL playoffs are happening, a sure sign of winter’s end. And even after the English summer ends, there’s still more cricket. There’s always more cricket. The summer never ends for cricket. But maybe I would be better off not fighting against the inevitable passage of time. “The sun doesn’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.” The seasons change, they always change, it’s how it all works, and as long as the world is spinning, we are moving ahead.
One year ago yesterday I wrote that “summer never came, and now it’s already gone.” One year ago today I wrote about Alistair Cook and change. A year. I want to say that the person who wrote those posts is now unrecognizable, but he’s not. Loyal readers will know that I write about summer’s end all the time. I looked back at those posts from Septembers gone by just now and there is melancholy but also hope — hope for a short winter, an early spring. That is who I find unrecognizable now. The person who looked at summer’s end and said: it’s fine, we’ll be fine. In September of 2014 we went to see The Replacements at Midway Stadium and it was a perfect night. I have not had a perfect night in so long. Everything is covered in a lead blanket. I used to dance in the kitchen, I don’t do that anymore.
Cricket is an old game. And it has chugged along for a century and a half. Through wars and plagues and depressions. It just keeps going. People have said it was dying since it was born. But that’s true for all of us. The minute we are born, we start dying. But cricket decided to subscribe to Red from Shawshank Redemption’s philosophy: we can either get busy living, or get busy dying. Cricket decided to live, and live it has. There’s a lesson there. Don’t let the bastards get you down. Or something like that. But that’s the advice that is so easy to give out, and so hard to actually take to heart and act on. I want to be okay, but I am not okay.
Last year’s “end of summer” post did end with hope. I paraphrased Hanif Abdurraqib: “Today I am sad. But tomorrow I might not be.” That’s the definition of hope. But I don’t have that anymore. Summer is slipping away, and might not ever come back, and I feel like I am going to be sad forever.
But summers do come back. They always come back. There’s always a second innings. I understand that intellectually, but trying to catch it in my hands is impossible. Summer is ending, and it’s so hard. I don’t want it to end. More than anything, I want it to stay. But even though I might not believe that it’s going to come back, it will happen. At a U2 concert a few years back, Bono said that “there’s no end to grief, that’s how we know there’s no end to love.” While that might be true for grief, it’s not true for everything. We know sadness doesn’t last forever, because happiness didn’t last forever.
Summer will come back.
Today, though, I am not ready to say goodbye to yet another summer. There are two Tests left in the Ashes. 10 days of cricket, if we’re lucky. So summer is still alive, at least for now. That’s what I am choosing to believe. Summer is still here because of this great game. A quiet arm on our shoulder giving us a short stay of execution before the leaves fall and the light in the evening fades. It might be 60 degrees and raining in Manchester, but it’s still summer, because there’s still cricket.