In its fleeting beauty, Summer is both symbol for and microcosm of life itself. That is to say, Summer is like life because it is very lovely, but also very short. So every Summer around Labor Day, I consult Emily Dickinson’s moving poem:
As imperceptibly as grief,
Our Summer slipped away…
…The Dusk drew earlier in—
The Morning foreign shone—
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone—
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful. (#1540, c. 1865)
Ms. Dickinson uses two unexpected images to capture the ephemeral nature of the season. First she suggests that every year the summer slips away and is gone before we notice it, like the heartbreak that dissolves gradually and insensibly after the loss of a long love. Day by day—invisibly but undeniably, dawn arrives incrementally later, and dusk falls imperceptibly earlier. Before we know it, our summer—like our grief—has disappeared.
Next, as if unsure she has gotten her point across, Ms. Dickinson tries a second image: summer is like a welcome guest who one morning, while her hosts still sleep, slips silently away to the train station or the ferry dock, despite the hosts’ earnest entreaties to prolong her visit: “as guest that would be gone.”
When I left for my summer break on July 31, the sun set at 8:09; tonight, September 9, it sets at 7:11; that feels like a precipitous abbreviation of daylight to me. It makes me think of life: very beautiful, but very short, even if we are blessed enough to receive the requisite fourscore years, or even fourscore years and ten.
So you have to follow the advice of every poet who has ever lived: Seize the day. Seize the year.
School resumes. NCAA football is back (well, not the Wolverines, but the Wildcats and the Buckeyes are). Your colleagues have all returned to the office or the shop. It’s Homecoming Sunday at Church on September 13. Make the most of whatever you get.
You could join Jo Forrest and me to become a serious student of Theology at Faith Seeking Understanding (see within).
You could prepare food for Night Ministry; they need volunteers to feed the hungry.
You could join Lisa Bond’s angelic choristers who give us every Sunday echoes of the music of the spheres.
You could teach Sunday School, or be a youth group mentor, or a Confirmation Class sponsor, because, as the old saw has it, the church is always one generation from extinction.
Perhaps it has not escaped your attention that the entire globe is suffering a refugee crisis just now. I’ll bet Refugee One has many recent arrivals they need to place and support.
On and on it goes, all of it here to give you an opportunity to utilize your irreplaceable, God-given talents, and to enrich your beautiful but fleeting existence.
“Life is very beautiful, but very short,” goes the old benediction, “so be quick to love, and make haste to be kind, because we do not have too much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way with us.”
William A. Evertsberg