- Residual industrial residue along the great falls of the Genessee. At one point this water _ diminished now due to a moderate summer drought _ provided enough energy that the millstones grinding western wheat renamed Rochester the “flour city.” Later it drove machinery for the largest button factory in the world, generated electricity, and was tapped for countless other uses, not least of all several large breweries that still exist on the high cliffs alongside the river gorge. Maybe in the future it will once be utilized for renewable energy, not so great for the scenic view.
- Industrial architecture and ruins in North America only go back a few centuries, hardly touching the older debris of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Yet they too insinuate tales of rise and fall, great commercial empires, individual struggle and triumph. Weaving such reminders into the fabric of our cities’ revitalization is one of the supreme architectural challenges of this age.
Summer half gone
Half to go
Shimmering afternoons, endless
(but growing shorter)
Slowly transient paradise
- Huntington home, back by the beautiful bay. Salt water instead of fresh. Anxious people following anxious activities, afraid of missing something or losing a possible future option. Long Island is marvelous, but laid-back it is not. Quite a contrast with some other places, although not quite as hassled as New York City proper.
- People everywhere have worries. But certain places emanate cultural tension, and others are more laid-back. Of course, I’m only looking at summertime _ it’s quite likely that come the cold season everyone buckles down to business at the same pace. I remain amazed that in relatively short distances, attitudes can so differ. George M. Cohan immortalized that idea in “Only 45 Minutes from Broadway …”
George was as usual reading his paper with half an eye on the activities on the boat launch. “Hey, Mr. Lazy, ain’tcha got anything better to do?” I call.
“Nope,” he replies. “Done my time, back when. This here is now my work, my passion, and my purpose all rolled into one now. Enjoying my life, appreciating the world, artistically shaping each day as I want.”
“My, my, a deep philosopher. You should have a long white beard, toga, and sandals.”
“Maybe next week. Anyway, I’m well glad to be out of the rat race. It seems to be even less fun today than when I remember.”
“I think,” I muse, sitting down on the wooden bench next to him, “or at least I remember it being pretty nasty when we were working.”
“Well, I didn’t get calls all times of day or night. I didn’t worry about losing my job any given month or day. I still had a life of my own, with my family. And nobody tried to tell me that selling communications equipment was the justification for my being alive.”
“I don’t know,” I begin to argue, “there were long hours, and homework, and …”
“For those who have jobs now,” he points out, “your work is everything. Twenty hours a day, no letup, no relief. For those without, finding work seems to be just about everything. No time for much else ….”
“Sourpuss. Too many papers …”
“Hey! I’m happy! Look at that blue sky, those lovely hills! Whatever the problems of the world may be, at least they are no longer mine.”
We spend a little more time watching nautical activities. My legs finally well rested, I nod goodbye and continue on my way, mind filled with new thoughts, senses telling me to ignore them.
- Almost all late bloomers are now in action. These spartina grass blades prepare seeds for next year, even though as perennials the same patch should return next year. Depending, of course, on tides, storms, sand shifts, and grinding ice floes. Birds relax a bit, fattening up either to survive the rigors of winter or to migrate elsewhere. Birdsong is notably less melodic, restricted largely to shrieked warnings of nearby predators. There are even occasional hints of the final act of summer opera _ a few yellow goldenrods, rose of sharon. Numerous fish jump and skip the surface,
disturbing lightly riffled harbor waters.
- I could dwell on what may come, worry about snow and cold, regret the missed chances of July. Or I could glory in the heat and bursting vitality of this morning. Or I might ignore it all and be disturbed by events in faraway places, or by intellectual and social actions “of great pitch and moment.” I believe, however, I shall settle for what I usually do, which is to sample many things in due measure and occasionally let my thoughts fly off into meditation or fantasy, occasionally swoop down to fully sample my engaged senses, occasionally pursue some fleeting chain of logic. Seems like a good season to become unfocused and simply accept enchantment as it arrives.
- Retirement and aging in general are often compared to autumn. That may well be, as time goes by. But for the more fortunate it is more like perpetual late summer. Crops are planted and taking care of themselves, harvest and preparation for winter is indefinitely delayed into the future.
- One major fault of our culture, I believe, is to try to ignore differences in age. We see “ageism” even in relation to how we consider ourselves as some kind of deep sin. An old person, we chant, is just as good as a young person. Elders themselves are encouraged to see themselves as young.
- A consequence is that ages of man _ which should be encouraged and celebrated _ are mushed together and afflicted with insipid constant philosophy. Childhood, instead of a being a time of exploration and carefree play, is increasingly a nasty directed mini- adulthood. Youth is chained and restrained and encouraged to think like an old miser saving for an improbable future. Middle age is filled with achievement, limits, triumph and despair _ as always _ but has incorrectly become the onlytrue standard of who one really is. And those who manage to grow old are seen as hedonistic freeloaders who ought to be working and playing as hard as anyone else.
- Hedonism, laziness, accomplishment, and all the other good and bad attributes society assigns to individuals, especially those outside norms, must be placed in relation to one’s situation to have any meaning. An essential part of that situation is age.
- Retirement, like late summer, is a time of reflection and wise contemplation. The frozen past resolves itself into meaning, and a more gentle purpose can seize each ambition of each day. Livin’ easy, perhaps, but eliminating nagging guilt for doing so is sometimes a challenge.
- Green dominates the natural world pervasively. Only sky and water manage to compete, if an open view emerges. Patches or points of color from flower or fruit are lost unless one observes closely. As always the unnatural world _ if human activity is so termed _ remains an exception. Houses, cars, clothing, trash, roads, anything may be any hue at all, and as large as conceivable. But in late summer, even those stalwart standouts or eyesores get a run for their money from the verdant vegetation.
- Leaves are as varied as snowflakes are supposed to be, if I bother to examine them closely. Every glance through vines and branches presents a unique picture of our universe. I am not willing to believe that each miracle of creation is striving to match some universal perfect form. Each of these bits of life is in itself its own perfection, unique in all time and space. But _ well admittedly, it is all just green and more green endlessly, and just a little boring as well.