The Summer of ’18

Cross-posted at Education Week.

It is a sweet time. The clematis is gone, only its thin brown stem left to tell the tale. The day lilies, too, have opened and closed their last blooms. The great show put on by the azaleas and rhododendrons and mountain laurels are distant memories.

But the heathers are astounding, dancing in the sun in their subtle variation of shapes and colors. The rhubarb is in its second growth, still making pies. The Russian sage is running riot and the Rose of Sharon is bursting with pink blooms by the corner of the house. If you look carefully, you can see that the leaves of the proud standard euonymus are just beginning to turn, a hint of the red banner they will wave in our yard in another month or so.

It is mid-August in Maine. The days are warm and lazy. Sailboats glide by in the light airs, their skippers wary of the afternoon thunderstorms. A crowd of small sloops in the distance crowd around a race buoy, the youngsters in them hoping to be among the winners when the yacht club hands out the season’s awards in a couple of weeks.

Some of our grandchildren are out on the porch with their parents. Sadie, the singer-songwriter and rock climber, is doing her algebra on her computer. Joachim, the naturalist, is watching a moth intently. My son Matt is playing the mandolin and his wife, Liz is backing him up on the bass. Kathy, my wife, calls Joachim to the kitchen and, a few minutes later, he is turning the crank on the ice cream machine to make ice cream with our blueberries.

Matt and Liz have already begun to pack up. My younger son, Josh, and his family left a few days ago. It takes a long long time to get served at the local restaurants now because the college students who get summer work here are leaving for school. Soon our home will be quiet and orderly again, the sound of children’s laughter gone along with the line of sneakers at the door. And we will miss them.

I’ve been sitting on the wicker couch on the porch, doing my work in their midst. My glance falls on today’s paper and an article pointing out that our country’s debt to GDP ratio has doubled in recent years. We are not alone. The whole world is living on borrowed money. My mind wanders off, thinking about what could happen if one of the countries that used borrowed money to let the good times roll couldn’t pay its debt holders.

I can feel autumn coming. In a blaze of color.