Antidote to the August blues

Time plays such funny tricks on our minds.

When Cane and I are released from the rigors of the school year each June, we have two weeks of suspended-time feeling. Although we know–we know–that summer will end, we just cannot feel it in June, and all things for summer feel possible. We will grow vegetables and cook real food and tend the garden and float the river and take walks and do all the house projects and we will do it indefinitely.

scooters

And go for scooter rides. We will take all the scooter rides, too.

For the most part, we do. We have time to do all of those things, for which we are  profoundly grateful. (Well, we don’t do all the projects. We will never do all the projects. But we do do projects.)

Nonetheless, when the calendar passes July 4, time changes a bit, and then when it turns to August, something turns in us. We become keenly aware of  the subtle signs that summer is slipping away–dusk falls earlier, we see the first dry leaves on the lawn, there is a different coolness in the early morning air. And in spite of all our gratitude, and even though we know–we know–we still have a month of summer left, we can find ourselves feeling just a little bit blue, and a lot less present. We can let our anticipation of summer’s end steal from us the time that remains.

All of which is why, yesterday morning, I was happy to learn* of Susannah Conway’s August Break.  It is one of those photo-a-day projects, which generally don’t do much for me, but I so love the intention of it:

Pause, look around you and shoot what you see. Live inside each moment. Pay attention to what’s there. If it’s the summer where you are it’s a lovely way to be present to the moments that will be gone before you know it.

Yes, please:  I want to be present for all of our August moments this year.

wading pool

This has been our go-to strategy for dealing with Portland’s completely unreasonable heat, and I’m sure we’ll have very similar August moments like this. Going to be in the 90s again today.

There are prompts for each day. The prompt for August 1:  Breakfast.

Because I am a born over-achiever (probably the main thing that keeps from from actually achieving much of what I’d like to), I took more than one photo:

bananas

banana bread batter

banana bread in pan

banana bread

And because I got hungry before the banana bread** finished baking, this is what I actually ate for breakfast:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have an uneven  relationship with photography. Not so much because my skills are basic, but because of how it impacts my connection to the world. Sometimes, a camera brings me closer to experience. I pay attention to it in a different way. Sometimes, though, it separates me from it. Instead of being fully immersed, I am observing from the outside.

Hard to simultaneously look around and through the lens.

I am interested to see which way this project will go. I like the structure of an assignment. (Did I mention over-achiever?) I am hoping it will help me more fully see and appreciate and experience the sweet days that will slip away, as they must. I’ll let you know how it goes.

fire pit

* I learned of August Break from the lovely Jill Seeger Salahub. I think that many of you who read here would really enjoy her writing and her perspective on living. Every Monday she publishes Something Good, an extensive list of great reads from the interwebs. That alone is worth the price of admission (your time).

**I don’t know if I’ve ever had a Martha Stewart recipe go wrong. This banana bread lives up to its name (The Best Banana Bread).

20 thoughts on “Antidote to the August blues

  1. Gretchen says:

    Ahh….August. Here August means summer is all over except for the heat; Dave goes back for pre-planning on Tuesday. This makes August my least favorite month–worst weather + no more vacation + all the fun fall stuff is still a ways off. Perhaps a photo a day project would cheer me up a bit. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and I hope you get a break from the heat (our summer has been relentless that way, too….I mean, we’re used to it here, and there’s AC everywhere, at least….but over 90 every single day since early June is not typical and not okay). Goodness…what a complainy comment I’m leaving. I’ll blame August! But, really, the end of summer always reminds me how lovely summers off are, and we’ve got a lot to look forward to this school year, too. Dave finally has the teaching schedule of his dreams , and I’m more excited about the kids’ homeschooling year than I’ve had time to be since before Abe was born. And a week long Thanksgiving break is a only a few months away! Enjoying the photos….hope to see more of them as the month goes on!
    Gretchen recently posted…Big Blue and Travel Trailer TalkMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I do not understand the places that start school in August–that’s even crazier than the 100+ degree days we’ve had the past week! (In Portland. OREGON. 102 on Thursday, when my car broke down in downtown rush-hour traffic.) We’re in the midst of another 10-day or so stretch of 90+ days. No, not OK at all.

      I am glad to hear, though, that Dave has a good teaching schedule and you’re looking forward to your teaching, too. Even though it makes us sad to see summer ending, we do get excited about going back to school. There’s something so great about getting a completely fresh start once a year. Most jobs don’t give you that.

      • Gretchen says:

        I think the reasoning must be that there’s actually a chance it will still be pleasant enough in early June for people to WANT to go outside, whereas by August everyone is ready to go hide in the AC and do school. Either that or something more cynical about having an extra month to prep for testing. It does mean the first semester can be finished before winter break with no finals hanging over your head when you go back…..

        And, yes–I’ve always thought the pacific northwest was my perfect climate, since I like rainy days and don’t like hot…this summer I’m not so sure!
        Gretchen recently posted…Benjamin Moore’s Bunker Hill Green for Abe’s RoomMy Profile

        • Rita says:

          That notion about test prep is not a cynical one. My kids’ school started a week earlier than most last year because they wanted to have more time before testing than after. I used to always think that break here should be from July to mid-September, as we never got reliably nice weather until after the 4th. The past few years that hasn’t been the case, though. And not all of our buildings have AC, so there’s that, too. One of the schools in my district started last week, and they have no AC. I’m glad I’m not in that building!

  2. Marian says:

    I find August to be a very bittersweet month. I too, keenly feel the passing of the days (I love having the kids home with me, and it’s been wonderful having our daughter home from university) and I don’t want it to end; I want to appreciate it ALL! And yet … summer is most definitely wearing thin here: the lawn is parched, the plants (except the late-bloomers) are largely spent, the veggie garden is weedy and overgrown, and the humidity and the heat are just not letting up, something this winter girl is finding very hard to take!
    Marian recently posted…Two People Hear the Same Number …My Profile

    • Rita says:

      As usual, your comment pushes me to a more nuanced view of things. You are right: Summer is wearing thin, and I can see now that it isn’t just anticipation of the end that makes August different from July. It’s not just the physical world wearing thin. It is also that too much of a good thing is never a good thing. We are beginning to miss our routines. We could all use a bit of time away from each other. I would like a bit more balance in our summer life. Still, not complaining. I know this time we get is a rare and luxurious gift.

  3. Sarah says:

    I always find August bittersweet, too. By late July I can already notice the days getting shorter (here in Seattle school doesn’t end until late June, close to the solstice, so it always seems like summer is turning toward its end before it has even begun). And in August the dryness is already causing the trees to drop their leaves, making a strange kind of autumn under the blazing sun.

    I know what you mean about photography — “Hard to simultaneously look around and through the lens” is a perfect way to put it. I’m reminded of what Marie Kondo says about photographs — basically that a photo’s purpose is fulfilled the moment you take the picture. Which in a way is really a call to put the camera down! Except, that’s really not true when you are writing a blog, and the photo’s purpose is to make a connection and convey an experience to readers. Anyway, I like the photographs in this post a lot, and hope that you will share more snaps from your project.
    Sarah recently posted…Works in Progress: Wiksten tank muslinMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I think I disagree with Kondo on this one. I treasure photos of my family, and even of myself in my younger days. Photos bring back memories for me in ways that nothing else does. I know I have the memory stored in my mind, but photos make them more vivid. Thank you for the compliment and encouragement. Not sure how I’ll share, but I’m sure I’ll share at least some of it.

  4. Lisa says:

    School here starts mid-August, which seems weird, but there is no building anywhere in Orange County that is not air-conditioned, so I guess its fine. But after August comes the heat of a thousand blazing suns known as September. I intensely dislike California in September. (Me, every year in September: can we move the hell out of this state, please?? My husband: can we discuss this October 15th?) (If I sound complainy, I will wholeheartedly endorse California in January and February.)

    That Something Good list is fabulous, I added it to my reader. Thanks! 🙂
    Lisa recently posted…Beige-apalooza and a blank canvasMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I love her list every week. Another good one you might like is Jen at Pierced Wonderings. You can find this week’s list here: http://www.piercedwonderings.com/weekly-wanderings-16/

      And I do think it’s weird that so many schools start in early or mid-August. We don’t start this year until September 9. (I think–not really sure of the day. Don’t need to know for another couple weeks!)

  5. Jen says:

    Thank you for the mention 😉

    This is the first morning of a return to school for me…although I am at home, sitting & waiting on a phone call to tell me if it is time to head to a new position or to look for something else. (It’s a long story) I resigned my position an hour & a half away from home because I thought I had a sure thing in place but now it’s not so sure & that’s ok. The beginning of the school year has many moves to be made, many doors opening & others closing & I’m confident one will open for me.

    I have been mourning summer for the last week. I am not ready for her end – for classrooms where the air conditioning might or might not work, for “professional” clothing that doesn’t keep me cool, for feet confined inside of closed-toe shoes. It is too soon, these days right at the beginning of August, as the weathermen remind us that as we enter the particular hell that is a south Mississippi August, the tropics are heating up, if you haven’t prepared your hurricane emergency kit already, please make sure you have it together now – you know what happens in August…but we are in school.

    *sigh*

    Matt still has one precious week of freedom…but he taught ESY all summer. Even at just 4 hours of play a day (they went to the splash pad, the beach, the fishing pier, & to lunch last week), he has yet to breathe in the relaxation that is a teacher on summer break.

    All of that to say that August is hard. I dislike August almost as much as I dislike May, with that interminable struggle to the finish line. I’m participating in the August Break on Instagram, where another project The Summer Miracle, is also happening. I know I won’t finish either one of them but I appreciate the remind to pause & appreciate all that August *can* be, even if August isn’t currently living up to her potential.
    Jen recently posted…Weekly WanderingsMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I have had school years that started from a similar place–ones in which I just didn’t feel ready to return. Those were always hard years. For me, I always said September (our starting month) was only second to May for hardness. I guess some things in teaching are universal, no matter which part of the country we’re in. 🙂

      I hope you get the news you are hoping for, and that you have a good year in spite of feeling not-quite-ready for it yet.

  6. Kate says:

    Jess and I were just talking the other day about how I seem to have a low in August and like clockwork, I’m feeling myself curl inward – reducing the amount of projects and playdates and instead focusing on quiet projects at home. I’m sad to see summer coming to an end, but I’m also ready for the structure provided by school days. And we’re all getting a little sick of each other.

    I’ve always been a fan of capturing day to day moments through photography so what a wonderful exercise to embrace this time of year. When I’m carrying my camera I’m notice so much more despite participating less. It’s a fine balance – knowing when to put the camera down and get dirty and when to sit back and watch through the lens.
    Kate recently posted…Beginning with the End in MindMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Yes–I think we, too, could use some structure and space. I just wish it weren’t so feast-or-famine. We get too much time/leisure/freedom in the summer, and not enough during the school year. If we could space things out a bit more and have a better balance, I think it would be so much better for our kids.

  7. Beth says:

    August is always a challenging month for me. Usually it’s because I’m a big planner and I tend to over think and obsess about things much earlier than I need to. It’s all too easy for me to lose the last month of summer to planning and looking toward school starting in the fall. This year I seem to have avoided that (so far), mostly because I got us over scheduled the first part of the summer, especially me with some professional projects I should have turned down, and this is the first chance we’ve had to just chill and enjoy summer.

    I will confess that last week I did most of the back to school shopping even though school doesn’t start until September 1. But instead of triggering my obsessing and looking ahead it allowed me to get it over with and move on without it constantly being in the back of my mind.

    Unfortunately, September is a very busy month for me professionally and I really need to start thinking about that at some point soon. Usually October is crazy and I can use September to get a grip and settle into the back to school season. This year is different so I need to figure out how to handle the preparation without losing August. Ugh.

    • Rita says:

      Wishing you luck with all that. And I think shopping now is likely a good thing. I used to be all about not Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, but last year I did some early and I was amazed at how much that helped me better enjoy December. I’d like to do that again this year.

      • Beth says:

        Yes! I completely agree with regards to Christmas shopping. Early December is always crazy for me professionally so I’ve learned to develop a Holiday Game Plan in early November so I can enjoy the season without the pressure. So much easier than waiting until the last minute.

        • Rita says:

          Now you’ve got me thinking about some Christmas presents I want to make! Need to get on those soon, as there really aren’t that many weekends left until December. (Aack!)

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I do, too! I try so hard not to. It doesn’t make much sense for us. We don’t get out of school until mid June, and we don’t go back until almost September, so July 4th isn’t even the mid-point. But somehow, that holiday creates a shift in us, despite our efforts not to let it. The rest of that month seems to melt faster than ice cream on a 90 degree day, each of the days just slipping between our fingers.

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