Labor Day

Actually, post-Labor Day. For some reason, Labor Day seems to me to be one of the most significant holidays of the year, and not the usual reasons. Some of the TV personalities call it the last unofficial day of summer. I agree with that. I grew up in a small tourist town, and now reside in another one. Anyone who lives in a travelers’ destination knows that Memorial Day hails the beginning of their tourist season and Labor Day pretty much ends it. There is, of course, some Senior activity after Labor Day in many of these tourist towns… hell, Yellowstone Park enjoys a whole second season of bus-loads of senior tourists who wait until the families have gone back to the cities and put their kids back in school. Most tourist destinations that I’m aware of stay open for most of September before they turn the lights out.

This past Labor Day was much like the holidays of previous years. The summer was different, however, from the past two summers, in that there were fewer marches, fewer riots; but there were more shootings, more mass murders, more weather-related tragedies. In that regard, this past summer was the worst one yet. Some cities, like Seattle, escaped much of the madness, but mostly it was wide-spread. I know better than to think, or even hope, that last weekend’s parties, get-togethers and back yard barbecues will change the direction our country is taking. It would be like stopping a toilet amid flush – you can cut the water off, but the toilet will still drain… it just won’t refill.

Labor Day’s effect on our little corner of the world is minimal, barely noticeable. Our neighborhood is quiet all year long, with the only difference (besides the weather change) is that our main highway is at least a third less busy, and our downtown returns to its wintertime peacefulness. I always say something stupid to B like, “Ha! Finally, we get our island back!”

A Moment For Quiet Reflection

I looked in the mirror first thing this morning, accidentally I might add, and saw the old man that I’ve become. I winced, knowing how foolish it is to see myself in a mirror any time of day now, let alone before noon. These days it always stings for a moment, wishing so hard that I could look outside the way I feel inside. But that wish doesn’t and can’t correspond with any stretch of reality. I look the way I look today because of all those years and all those experiences and adventures. I feel inside today the way I feel inside because of, omg, all those experiences and adventures. I guess in many ways the brain is able to rebuild and maintain itself better, and easier, than the body. And of course we all want to stay young, especially if we’ve had a good life and want to enjoy it more, longer.

I remember, as a much younger man, thinking if I were lucky enough to live a long life, I would then be in the Autumn of my life, and would probably hate Autumn every fall, if only for reminding me that I’m now old. Eh. Young & stupid. Being now solidly in the Autumn of my life, I can report that my younger thought was not true… hell, not even close. I probably love autumn more now, the season of the year, as well as the season of my life. Both are beautiful, mellow, wonderful, well worth living and worth tasting every moment.

Sitting out on my front deck this morning, coffee in hand and pup at my feet, I feel and hear the subtle change of Autumn in the air. It’s still deliciously warm, right in the middle of my 4-degree window of comfort. When the wind stirs our trees, it has just a hint of extra coolness I did not feel this summer. And there’s more. The shadows across the deck are longer now. The obnoxious crows that inhabited the cherry tree in our next door neighbor’s yard are gone, as are the sounds of construction on the next block, and our back yard neighbor’s small children’s shrieks. Now, all I hear aside from the occasional gentle breeze, is the relaxing sound of the owls, chickadees, wrens and hummingbirds. Occasionally I get a whiff of the Puget Sound waters below us, and now and then a gull glides overhead. The California quail are back, living silently in the big blackberry bushes below our neighbor’s yard. They like it here on the island in the wintertime, as do we. I swear, sometimes it feels like everything that’s wrong in the world has sent everything that is right swooping down to our island and landing… on us.

Yup, Labor Day has come and gone. Per usual, the summer already seems fleeting. For us it was a quick, busy, productive summer. We both had successful laser surgery on our eyes. We held two big yard sales this summer, and finally cleaned out my storage unit… family stuff, much that I’d kept most of my life, now sold or given away. It’s funny, letting go of personal, sentimental stuff starts out being so difficult, but gets easier after awhile. There are treasures that one can’t let go of, of course, and I still have my share.

We had none of the tragic circumstances of floods, tornados have, peaceful, dreamy afternoons in the back yard hammock with Hemingway. I rarely lie there, looking up into the trees, listening to the little birds, that I don’t wonder how in hell I ended up in this wonderful place, with this wonderful woman. Blessings, karma, grace… god only knows why, or how. Being and feeling contented can kick up a host of questions if one lets it. I choose not to et it. Rather, I choose to close my eyes and feel the warmth, the softness of this perfect, post-Labor Day day.

So hello, Autumn. And hello, Autumn of my life. Here we all are, like it or not. I have decided to like it. And why not? It’s way easier , and more rewarding than I imagined it would be. Let the cooler winds blow, let the leaves fall and scurry across the street below. Let the California quail huddle in the blackberry bushes and ready themselves for the rainy, easy winter ahead. Labor Day has come and gone, and with it our dreams for a longer summer. Hm. Maybe I’ll have a beer…

Steve Hulse

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