Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The best of both seasons

The kids went back to school today, making it official: summer's over.

Time to show the sunny months -- with their adventure, freedom and weekends that start Friday at 3 -- the door. And as they walk out, you stand up a little straighter, pat your hair into place and look the back-to-business months of fall square in the eye. Sigh good-naturedly. Invite them in to set up shop in your favorite chair. Ask what they need, and then go get it. You know it's time.

In reflecting on this changing of the seasonal guard today -- as I catalogued our summer activities, wondered where two-plus months went, and felt a little shell-shocked by how dramatically one day can change the communal zeitgeist -- I wondered how the two sides of us - Summer Us and Fall Us - might mix. The best parts of both, working together to make us adventurous, free of spirit AND productive. As we move into the comforting routines of September, whether it be at work, in school, or at home, how do we hang on to the special joy of summer, with dinners on the patio and kids playing until after dark, while also enjoying the autumnal satisfaction of a misty day spent ticking off boxes on the meaty to-do list we neglected for three months?

I for one will try, as an experiment. How? Perhaps by injecting a little more spontaneity into the predictable structures that school-time brings our family. Maybe skip a school event and head to the beach for some storm-watching and indoor s'mores making. Maybe it's a November trip to a yurt. Or splurging on fresh berries in October. Or maybe it's just an attitude, reflected in subtle ways: A bright color worn on a dark day. A dinner revolving around fresh herbs and good tomatoes for as long as one can get them. A willingness to let the kids stay up late one night, even though we'll all be wrecks the next day.

The point isn't to deny the seasonal rhythms our ancestral beings need. Nor is it to eschew the renewed focus on the practical, the predictable, the work of life that we all seem to aspire to in fall. It's about acknowledging that, like old friends, maybe you don't need to shut one out in order to enjoy the other. And in mixing them, you may find some pleasant surprises.