Though short, it’s just a brushstroke away
“Where has the summer gone?” It’s a question that often arises as the white heat of August casts its lingering rays on the waning season whose fullness we eagerly greeted mere months ago. As the last of the bounty that fills our tables fades and once-lush lawns wither and brown, the specter of crisp autumn days looms on the horizon, though admittedly blurred in relentless, steamy waves rising from the earth.
This year, perhaps more than any other, summer has been lost; its traditions, from the roar of baseball diamonds to the crackle and fizz of fireworks, abruptly halted. Where has the summer gone, indeed? And will we ever recapture what was lost to us?
In the eyes of poet Richard Wilbur, the answer is a definitive “Yes!” Setting his poem “My Father Paints the Summer” in a seaside hotel on a rainy day, Wilbur evokes the disappointment among guests relegated to monotonous games of ping-pong, while elsewhere the season’s splendor thrives:
But up in his room by artificial light
My father paints the summer, and his brush
Tricks into sight
The prosperous sleep, the girdling stir and clear steep hush
Of a summer never seen,
A granted green.
Taking a cue from Wilbur, we too have turned to artists, who, like the poem’s paternal protagonist, have captured the brilliance, folly and sheer joy of the season. If you feel as though summer has eluded you, celebrate it here, among colorful garden blooms, quiet fields, windswept seascapes, twilight gatherings and noisy streets. For as Wilbur reminds us:
Caught Summer is always an imagined time.
Time gave it, yes, but time out of any mind.
There must be prime
In the heart to beget that season, to reach past rain and find
Riding the palest days
Its perfect blaze.
And take heart: There’s always next year. OH
— Nancy Oakley