I have no camp trunk to unpack, no school year to anticipate. But evening breezes and dimming daylight carry signals as unmistakable as they were in Upper Manhattan and the Catskills.
It’s late August and a new year is about to begin.
We’ll still call it 2005 for another four months or so, and even the Hebrew year 5766 won’t arrive until Oct. 4. But flipping the wall calendar to September will feel like starting a fresh year, just as it did when turning that page was like turning a corner between camp and city.
A time to gain, a time to lose . . .
Even if you don’t live by an academic calendar, the transition we cross during late summer brings a change of wardrobe, of activities, of pace—grown-up versions of trading swimsuits, baseball gloves and group bunks for composition books, laced shoes and family meals.
The end of summer now means a new year for orchestras, stage theaters, recreation leagues, community classes, volunteer committees and TV networks. Our neighborhood association has an annual block party in a few weeks. Book group members are back in town, ready to reconvene. Workplaces sharpen the focus as fiscal years wrap up and vacation schedules have blank spaces again.
Oh sure, there’s still time for golf, biking and strolls—even for those of us north of the Sun Belt—just as there was time to see summer friends at Rockaway Beach, to grab a Spaldeen and hit the streets, to enjoy an amusement park getaway. And baseball’s calendar is just reaching its crucial weeks.
A time to build up, a time to break down . . .
But there’s no missing the signposts of a new year.
A school bus rolls by slowly before 8:30 each weekday morning. The last backyard tomatoes are nearly ripe and shiny basil leaves are less abundant. Sprinkler hoses and watering cans no longer need to be used twice a day, just about every day. Already the fireflies are gone; how much longer will cricket concertos stir visions of camp? Soon the geese will head farther than a nearby lake.
Summer seems to unfurl gradually, blossoming with a leisurely rise of temperatures, fragrances, birdsongs and petals. Not so at the tail end, when schedules fill, days shorten and we want to keep August’s door propped open a bit longer . . . before floating candles on the pool, boarding the bus.
A time to laugh, a time of love
A time you may embrace . . .
Inevitably, these seasonal markers create a reflecting pond of camp nostalgia. The calendar that defined our time together still defines each year’s clearest transition point, an intersection between play and purpose, kicking back and buckling down, Catskills and city.