Summer Swansong


  • Planned to lead with a picture of a swan, but no shorebirds around this morning except a few crows and a solitary cormorant.  Perhaps all on vacation, perhaps scared off by frantic vibes of impossibly numerous shell-shocked humans rushing about in panic.  “Where did the summer go?”  “Oh, crap, its back to school/work/daily grind.”  Even retired people, who have seeming escaped that seasonal wheel of sorrow, are mostly planning how to get through the coming winter or (more philosophically) how to engage in meaningful projects to add purpose to their self-perceived irrelevant lives.
  • I’ve always like the romantic concept of a swansong _ a brief glorious act immediately before death.  A curious term _ and I won’t spoil it by looking up the origin.  Etymology is much more easily determined on the internet than political “truth” or historic fact.  I think it well fits this last week of freedom, as everyone tries to cram a last bit of relaxed happiness which becomes impossible knowing what will immediately follow.


Summer going, sun drifts south,
Through days of humid hot
All this green, hard to believe,
Soon turns to brown and rot.
Cycles come and cycles go,
Cycles flow again.
Massive change, except that I,
Alone remain the same
And yet I know, remembering back,
I’m not as in my past.
A larger cycle, once ignored,

Now looms to close at last.


  • If summer end is a tragic opera, goldenrod is the messenger bearing irrefutable proof in its long solo that the final act is nearing.  A few other flowers dot the woods and fields, but none so overwhelmingly turning entire hillsides and shorelines yellow.  No matter what it may feel like outside, goldenrod’s sign is September.
  • I rush seasons as much as anyone.  There are still many fine times, spells of heat, lovely sunsets, relatively long days, and a hoped-for final Indian summer.  But worse weather is immanent, not infinitely far off as it seemed in June.   Nature has adapted to all this, and so should I, but sometimes there remains a hint of sadness not simply at this summer gone, but at all summers I so well remember.


Old people nursing beers at Finley’s, late afternoon, grumbling as usual.
“Too bad old King Canute is dead,” says Dan.  “He could run for president.  Holding back the tides would save billions or trillions, and it’s no more impossible than what the other candidates are promising.”
“When did kids get so stupid?” asks Jean.
“Magic,” mutters Bill.  Everyone looks at him in expectation.  “We boomers are the last generation to understand the world.  Everything now is magic _ nobody knows how technology, global trade, society, anything really works.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Allen agrees.  “Politicians are all shamans _ do the right spell and poof.”
“Right,” replies Bill.  “The republicans think all the problems are caused by little devils that can be exorcised with the right slogans or talismans like a four thousand mile long fence.  The democrats claim they can tame Lady Fortuna and force her to distribute her fickle favors more equitably.”
“I blame the schools,” states Flora.  “They teach anything is possible.  We all know anything is not possible.  You can’t turn lead into gold.  When people think anything is possible, nothing is possible, and nothing gets done.”
Jean responds “So the kids aren’t stupid?”
“Sure they are,” Dan looks around.  “The masses are stupid and willfully ignorant.  The educated elite have them wrapped around their little fingers.”
“I wonder,” Bill continues darkly as he finishes his beer, “I wonder what will happen when the magic goes away?”


  • This is the first extended hot and very dry period this year, although rain has been below average.  Some vegetation is beginning to show effects, although the trees remain relatively untouched since there is abundant ground water.  But all the plants are now being triggered into survival and shut-down mode as the days grow shorter.  There will be no compensating new growth on these branches as there would be in the spring.
  • I bask in the late summer glow, going swimming, enjoying sweaty walks in nothing but tee shirt and shorts, marveling at nature.  But there is a small part of me like the trees, getting ready to slow down and hibernate, concentrate on indoor and internal mental activities, develop my own resources and projects.  It’s silly to worry about the coming winter, which after all lasts two months at most.  Right now I look forward to rain, and brilliant foliage, and the first snowfall.  By then, of course, I will much lament the loss of these final weeks of the season.


  • We pride ourselves on being reasonable and scientific, always believing in cause and effect, unlike primitive peoples.  But cause and effect in itself is not scientific _ any human who ever lived knows that eating will ease hunger and getting cut will bleed.  It’s just that before science, it was easier to take shortcuts and assign most causes to spirits or gods.  As far as I can tell, there are many primitive thinkers among us now, many running for president.   I propose a few causes (and solutions) that I expect to hear any time soon:
  • Climate change is not caused by human activity.  God intervened to create modern man using the highly unusual ice ages.  Now that the God of humans has died, the planet is reverting to its natural paradise-for-dinosaurs equilibrium.
  • The Mideast is populated by crazy fanatics.  Obviously living in a desert drives anyone mad.  We should remove everyone from deserts, possibly by seeding the sand with radioactive waste from nuclear power plants (thus solving two problems at once.)
  • Our government is a mess, all branches, all levels, from top to bottom.  Our government is 99% composed of lawyers.  Thus lawyers, in addition to being naturally sleazy and evil, are totally incapable of ruling a country.  There should be a constitutional amendment banning anyone holding a law degree from ever running for elective office.


  • Ragweed rules triumphantly,  pollinated and seeding for next year.  As far as it is concerned, everywhere is as fertile as Indiana,  each climate as welcoming as the Amazon basin.  Perfectly adapted for the modern world, which humans colonize and disturb and ignore each year.  Some say it is an ugly and ungainly plant, but it fills all the peripherally noticed borders of our views in solid green, contributing subtly but strongly to what seems natural and right.
  • If the meek are to inherit the Earth, ragweed will no doubt be among them.  If I am a weed, I could do worse than to emulate this survivor.  Were I such, I would not complain of destiny, or poor soil, or adverse growing conditions, or lack of rain, nor envy the cushy situations of other plants and prettier flowers, all well-tended in gardens.  I would just accept my space and flourish.  My meditations are unexpectedly enriched.

2 thoughts on “Summer Swansong

  1. What a melancholy poem. I am never sorry to see summer go but I have enjoyed your daily recordings of the oncoming of the season and its waning days. Love the photos of regenerated spaces in upstate NY. Some of them look like early 20th century paintings. And who knew Lake Ontario could be so beautiful (when it doesn't stink). Looking forward to your fall musings….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s