Maybe it is because that wonderful, little-kid summer feeling that stays with us forever, but the end of summer brings with it a pang of melancholy. Well, maybe not for some parents who are more than ready for structured school days to be back, who are more than happy not to have to think of endless and entertaining summer activities, who very much anticipate some peace and quiet.
I recently saw a Staples commercial. An adult is happily whistling and skipping down the aisle enthusiastically picking school supplies off shelves and dumping them into his cart. While two children stand immobile, stone-faced, staring at the shelves of school supplies, the dad keeps whizzing by them in enthusiasm.
Of course, I am sure many parents can relate to this scenario!
But seriously, isn’t there still always a twinge of some letting go in the air at the end of summer? After all, we were once those kids in the commercial, and so, though we are long out of school, it is pretty much programmed into all of us to feel that sadness of summer freedom ebbing, and the dread of the start of another school year approaching.
Its not just the slower rhythms of summer. Not just the corn! tomatoes! cherries! peaches! and that watermelon . . . I am ODing on them as much as I can before the season ends! It’s not just bowls and bowls of fresh summer confetti in pico de gallo and fruit salsas. Its that slower pace where days pass more like a stroll than a run, where somehow there seems to be more time and, of course, the grand outdoors.
Then, at the end of another summer, its all about one mores. One more book to read before the summer leaves . . . one more picnic, one more hike, one more water activity, one more game in the park . . . and in my family, this summer, it was one more Shabbos before my youngest brother officially left the nest, off to yeshiva in Israel.
Before you know it, the days somehow become just slightly more blustery, the evenings more cool, and there you have it: Fall has shown up and is here to stay.
Even if you are not a parent or a school teacher, there is that sense of renewal of school days in the air. Which, among other things, means buying a pair of brand new fall shoes. Remember how every year before school you got a brand new pair of shoes? They were tight at the toes and rubbed against the ankle, but G-d forbid to make a peep or complain about that, since just the week before in the shoe store you insisted to your parents that they felt perfectly comfortable since that was the only pair of shoes you wanted? Yes, I thought so.
For us, autumn also has that accompanying feeling of preparation. The Days of Awe, the High Holidays, and end of summer always coincide. And so, as the playful freedom and lightness of summer winds down, fall brings us more indoors, more thoughtful, a little bit more serious approach.
These days of Elul are a prelude to the holiest of days, and so the fall becomes a bridge of sorts; a bridge between the heat, color and bloom of summer to the cold, crisp, bareness of winter. A spiritual bridge between days lacking a steep degree of self-scrutiny and self-reflection, and a time of more intense soul- searching and earnestness.
There are rituals to these days. The rise and fall of the sounds of the shofar can be heard. The extra daily psalm is added to our morning prayers. From summer, things have shifted course. We are on the way to Rosh Hashanah.
Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News