It is the end of the summer months. It used to be, as a kid, that August got to be ridden to the very end, to the very last day, before school was started up and fun time was over. In August’s wake the following Labor Day weekend meant fireworks, barbeque, and the closing of the country club pool with a day of races and relays. The end of summers were always bittersweet and languid and I’ll admit to having always felt a gladness that summer and the worst of its heat was coming to a close, and yet, it made me sad that another summer of my youth/life had come and was gone. It is like the romance of the end of a relationship that was not meant to be, but also the hope that another one would come along.
August is my birth month, the specific date falling on the 11th, a date which I have shared with my mother for all of my life, her plan on that, not mine. This year was the first and only time we have not shared the date, as she died last year almost two weeks after the 11th. So the date this year was finally mine to have as a special day, just mine, and somehow it felt disorienting and weird, like there was a puzzle piece missing. And it’s not like we have had a traditional party together on the date in many years, my plan on that, not hers. We usually exchanged gifts of some sort early and then, in more recent times I went out of town to be away and was able to savor “my” special day without sharing. In truth my leaving did not make “my” day more special, it just made it separate, and underlying it has always been “our” birthday. This year lacked any cake, ice cream, or balloons, which was fine sort of, but it did give me some moments of retroflection to feel the ending of something. My mother and I will never share the date of our births in August again.
We, once again, left the brutal Alabama heat and humidity last week and headed to the mountains to enjoy the cooler temps there and visit with friends. Mark taught his photography workshop, as he has done for many years now, the workshop scheduled by using the time of my birthday as an excuse to escape the dismal end of another summer. We met some old friends who we had met at the lodge years ago and who we feel like we have known our entire lives, and yet in truth we only get to see each other for four or five days annually. Somehow we are able to pick up conversation as though we had only been in another room for a moment, no time lost, we move on. Together we are just on the same page, playing hard, relaxing, or finding some adventure for the afternoon, and especially enjoying the dining and wining experiences that the lodge’s chef renders to us all. This trip was no different in that aspect.
There on top of the ridge that the lodge sits on, the air is cool and a nice breeze tends to keeps the no-see-um’s away. The air is clear with a few distant puffs of clouds hanging behind the mountains on the horizon. Gold finches chatter and flit around and chip monks fill their cheek pouches with as much sunflower seed that they can stuff in and carry their loot back to where ever their secret hiding place is. A refreshing cold front brought in some especially lovely weather the other day. It was preceded by a rain shower that caught us when we went out for a brisk walk down the incredibly steep driveway and up the mountain highway that surrounds the base of the lodge. As we huffed and puffed our way along the drops felt good and deeply refreshing. Our piety returned and, once dried off, it was wine thirty.
This place we come to, is not for everyone. Those who feel a need to have entertainment shoved at them from every angle with a barrage from which there is not escape, won’t like it here. Their comment will be, “There is nothing to do”, and no, there really isn’t. There are no tv’s and even though there is a connection to the internet if you have to, the perfect entertainment here is sitting and watching the birds, the clouds, the trees swaying in the breeze, listening to the motorcycles rumbling below as their riders take the hairpin turns on the road below. There are walking trails to peaks that face east and one, west to take in the different views. There are tennis courts, gardens to admire, chickens to feed blades of grass to, horse shoes to throw, fire pits to be sat around, books to be read, and did I forget to mention, there are the fabulous meals to be savored.
Nearby there is a creek with a long smooth pool where folks go to stack cairns in the water and in doing so create a place of beauty and ephemeral zen charm, until they are knocked down by some bad little boy, or from an increase in the flow of the stream driven by a rain somewhere up the hill, accumulating until it reaches the bottom where we sit on the “birthday rock” and watch young trout holding in the eddy line in the crystal clear water at our feet.
There is a deep blue lake where we take canoes and paddle boards out to explore the steep coastline and feel the coolness rising off the water. There are hiking trails too numerous to mention and waterfalls to go see. There are places to get away and just sit and think, or write, under trees, in the screened room, on decks built just off the trails, or just sitting in the lodge main room overlooking the far peaks to read or chat. No, there really isn’t much to do, and that suits me just fine.
All places of paradise proportion like this, though, have a flaw somewhere and this hallowed ground has hornets. August is their time of year to be pure evil. We have run into them before and now try very hard to avoid where they might have their nests in the ground. As the night time temps get cooler, these bugs begin to get mad and pissy as they must feel the change of season coming on and that their time in limited and so make the most out being aggressive.
On our last full day there I went for a morning walk on a path to the east, one that is well traveled and clear, and I was hoping to not get crossed up with any ground dwellers. The sunlight was starting to peek through the tall trees and cast long beams of warming light to the cool ground below. In the beams of light and warmth all kinds of bugs were trying to get some energy, and then I saw two hornets doing a buzzing in circles fight with each other. Up and down the shaft of light they fought each other vying for the heat. I stepped wide to their left to avoid their possible wrath but one shot out of their duel and flew all the way across the path and tagged me on my left hand right between my fingers.
I quickly got to the top of the trail head without any further stings and they had not followed me, but my problem was, I had to go back by them to get to the lodge. I let the two dueling buzzers chill for a bit, then charged my way past where they had been and did not wait to see if they were still there. It is an amazing thing that adrenalin does to make the body move faster and with more agility than it has by itself. I got back with out further incident, found some bendryl, and waited to see if I was going to react and have to take a dose of my epi-pen. My hand swelled to balloon size and itched but I felt no hives coming on and that was a good thing.
We finished out our last day back on birthday rock, drinking some red wine and restacking more rocks. A mean spirited young boy who we had seen the day before is suspect in having knocked down the previously stacked cairns, and some of which had been balanced by a real master or very powerful witch. I just don’t understand destroying something like these graceful piles of rocks, but I have never been a young boy looking for trouble either, and that too is a very good thing.
Anyway, we headed back home from our paradise to a parched scene that today, is finally getting a much needed rain to quench the browned and crispy plants. I have spent the morning scratching the necks of the horses and feeding them the last of the pears that have fallen from the trees, and not much more. Riding them will wait a day or two and they don’t seem to mind at all.
August, is half way done.