The next couple of days are predicted to be the hottest days of summer–they say 100 degrees. It’s never that hot here at the lake, but in the hour or so before dinner, if you’re out in the smoke-hazy sun and away from the water, you’d best find some shade. Don’s been frequently turning on the sprinkler system to keep the grass and bushes from drying out, and the kitties are often off sleeping in the coolness of the wet grasses. One of my favorite things in the morning, when I drive into town for yoga, is entering into the shady tunnel of trees on First Avenue East, in the residential section of the street. In this heat, everyone is watering their lawns, using a variety of sprinkling systems. There are the ones with crossed arms which spray out crossing arcs of water, and the little round ones which become vertical fountains, and the rectangular ones which slowly oscillate a line of holes spouting water, moving from one side to the other on its axis. It was always easy to be lazy with this oscillating one, thinking you could keep the hose turned on while you moved it, but misjudging the angle when you set it down, and soaking yourself. I admire the energy of the pulsating ones which make that staccato punctuated (ttttttttttt) sound, when it reaches the lever, which sends it back to the starting point. And, those traveling ones, crawling along, always look like they know how to take it slow on hot summer days.
There are nothing but in-ground sprinkler systems in the golf course neighborhood, where I go for my morning walks and runs. There is nothing to see here. In fact, at some of the newly sodded lawns, I’ve walked across the precious grass to see if I could even find the hidden sprinkler heads buried in the ground. I miss the old sprinkler contraptions, and am irrationally nostalgic for all the years I had to drag hoses around lawns. There was a certain comforting rhythm, on a slow dog-day of summer, in which the most pressing thing of the day was to remember to keep moving the sprinkler.
At my age, I know I am more and more inclined to be washed over by that bittersweet feeling of nostalgia, and in summer, it’s at its prime. Take baseball, for instance. On hot hazy summer nights, as a little girl in Ohio, we sat in aluminum folding chairs in Uncle Dean’s pristine garage, with the door wide open and an oscillating fan moving the humid air. The grown-ups drank beer with their popcorn, and we cousins drank Coke, as we listened to the Cleveland Indians game on the transistor radio. The kids followed along, making the marks on those old scorecards. Just whiling away the time–like it seems nobody does anymore, unless you count looking down at your phone. Fast-forward sixty years, and on one of the nights last month, when just Valerie, her three kids, and Don and I were here, the Oakland A’s (our family’s team, vis-a-vis that Don grew up in Oakland, and has loved them ever since, and now two of my three daughters live in the East Bay) were playing the SF Giants. Mark had flown home for business, and actually scored a ticket, and was with the record-setting crowd in the Oakland Coliseum. While Don went up to Burger Town to get burgers, fries and milkshakes, Valerie found a live stream of the game from a radio station in Sacramento, and the six of us sat out on the porch, ate our supper, and listened play-by-play to the game, while occasionally texting with Dad, out in California. When things were going our way, we jumped up in unison to chant, “let’s go Oakland, let’s go Oakland, clap, clap, clap, clap,clap!” At the top of the ninth, the Giants tied the game, and when Don threw up his hands in frustration, and left the building, we weary remaining fans went off to bed. The lucky Californians, who were sleeping upstairs, got a late text from their Dad that Oakland had gone on to win in the bottom of the eleventh inning. They all had a night of sweet dreams in their beds above us. Fortunately, as an early riser, Don received the good news before we all had to face him come morning.
David Whyte writes, in Consolations, “Nostalgia is not indulgence.” He goes on to say, “…something we thought we understood but that we are now about to fully understand, something already lived but not fully lived, issuing not from our future but from something already experienced; something that was important, but something to which we did not grant importance enough, something now waiting to be lived again…Nostalgia is not an immersion in the past, nostalgia is the first annunciation that the past as we know it is coming to an end.” Often, nostalgia for me is a chance to relive the past with new meaning and much richness, and it is truly a treasure to share a childhood memory with our grandchildren. Who knows what memories they may have from their days at the lake, and what nostalgia may wash over them when they grow old? Such a beautiful circle of life it is.
“Memory is a child walking along a seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.”
– Pierce Harris