Summer reveals a secret for the ages
First Person is a weekly forum for personal musings and reflections from readers.
We are in the thick of summer, when evenings begin to smell like vacations.
July has a particular sweetness in its breezes, a strange type of humidity and unused sunshine ambling about in the sky long after sunset.
The season proves generous in a flirtatious way. It is boisterous and untiring, with the year having grown just old enough to be aware of its youth — not unlike a college student.
When cut grass in the morning smells like a mint julep, you know that summer has been drinking of itself late into last night.
And if you grow up in the country, the smell of recently spread manure is a boon: It signals growth. It is an acquired liking, but few farmers would deny their fondness for it.
The spreading of manure — much like the baling of hay — is a sacrament of sorts. A farmer’s religion is an optimistic one; he believes in the thorns and thistles, then tills them under.
The smell of turned earth is a nostalgic one, sharing a wistfulness with the so-called petrichor of a thunderstorm. When either hangs upon the evening wind, you find yourself returning to previous summers, younger summers — marked by nights spent idly, with lovers or friends, until the stars simply yielded to dawn.
No wonder E.B. White set his famed essay, Once More to the Lake during summertime.
Had his return to the lake occurred in early December, some magic would have been lost. The smell of winter is good but not voluminous; it lacks the transcendence of early August.
In summertime, White finds a temporary bridge between his old age and childhood, and he can’t tell whether he is an old father or once again a young son.
“There had been no years,” he remarks.
I felt a similar magic in May as I watched my friends graduate from my earlier college, the University of Richmond in Virginia.
The flowering campus recalled many “younger” nights when, during my years there, nighttime provided an easy excuse for an adventure with friends.
My friends had walked the graduation dais, though — whereas I have a year of studies remaining at Kenyon College. Somehow, only one night remained of our hundreds together. The notion that so many vast nights and days could, like an ocean, suddenly dissolve into a puddle, be done away into one final evening was sobering.
We drank cider and ale in their apartment, a sliding door half-open to the Richmond breeze. And we were 18 again, the Children (as we called ourselves) once more. For a few hours, there were no years, only the near-summer night and a good wood fire.
We returned to life the next day, 22 again and ready for other youthful years. Perhaps that night taught us something: that every memory was once the present, a gift of the now.
I realized why wise old White returned to his lake during summer. There was something of the present that could be found only in the past, a place found only on the summer breezes.
When we arrive there, we know we have grown into youth, not out of it.
Matthew Eley, 22, is an English major at Kenyon who grew up in Howard, Ohio.
I have many favorite writers and I do not wish to explain further, my taste, for as many no doubt realize by now, I’m a bit of an oddball. However, there have been only few whom have taken my breath away or forced me to whoa up, and take time to just “be” and reflect. This young man is one such. Another was a very special personal friend whom I adored and with whom I shared so much, — Mildred Maiorino She went on to a writing career of poetry and prose of a great many books.
Another was a magnificent book called “Cry to Heaven” written by Anne Rice which so totally held my attention that I could barely put it down. I intensely disliked the subject story line which was not my usual cup of tea, however, her writing style and talented usage of language convinced me she was a magician. So very beautiful. So charmed I was, that I went on to read her strange book called the Vampire LeStat. Again, a problem with the subject matter. . .(What can I say?. . .just can’t handles stuff that gives me nightmares).
So now, here is Matthew Eley. . . and only 22. Guess you’ve either got it or you don’t! We are gonna hear about this young man down the road because there isn’t a basket big enough under which to hide his light. . . . just sayin’, Jan)