Connoisseurs of summer light

The light has changed a great deal in the two months since this photo was taken.

From one of my favorite Mary Schmich columns (Chicago Tribune, August 1, 2008):

If you merely count the days from summer’s official start in June until its finale in September, August 1 doesn’t even mark the summer midpoint. But it does mark the high point, which means the beginning of the end.

The light shifts, softens. The shadows on the leaves and the living room floor make you wonder: When exactly did the wane start?

People in other places may not wonder, but Chicagoans are connoisseurs of summer light. We spot the changes as surely as a foodie detects the difference between fennel and star-anise.

Yes, the light has shifted and softened, but the unofficial conclusion of my summer has been heralded by more than that: My older daughter will conclude her work at the therapeutic riding facility this week, then submit the last of the paperwork required to begin her new job in a nearby school district. My younger daughter will give a talk on her research at [insert name of national laboratory here] later this week, then move back home — only to begin packing for her return to university.

The Girls Rule! School will enjoy a short and joyous reunion in the interval between her arrival home and her sister’s first day on the new job, but the season is most certainly waning: My flute teacher held her summer recital this weekend, and the beach closes for the season next weekend. Leaves are dropping from the beleaguered but rallying oak out back, and acorns are abundant on the others. Subscription tickets have been mailed, and many single tickets are now on sale. On the to-do list, “Bring winter coats to cleaner before Labor Day” is underscored. Twice.

With back-to-school (which has always seemed more a new year than January 1) only weeks away, then, it feels right to assess my progress on this year’s reading goals.

Since my mid-year review, I’ve read another fifteen books — five novels, one play, seven works of graphic fiction, and two non-fiction titles — for a total of eighty-three books read, to date. Books XI and XII and Lectures 9 through 12 remain in my quest to read The Aeneid and finish Elizabeth Vandiver’s The Aeneid of Virgil. About two and half hours remain in my audiobook of Hope Never Dies (Andrew Shaffer; 2018), and about one hundred pages remain in Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland (2017). Despite having a number of books in various states of unread, I’ve gamely begun Squeezed (Alissa Quart; 2018 — review here) because I must return it to the library later this month — right around the time I help move my youngest back to university and resume my academic-year position.

One of my reading resolutions for this year is to finish at least thirty non-fiction titles. In May, I misstated this as thirty-six, but when I revisited the original post this morning, I was delighted to realize that I am within ten books of the goal. Admittedly, I have made less progress on Resolutions 1 (Read from the shelves) and 4 (Finish reading several books abandoned in 2017 (or *gulp* earlier)), but I remain upbeat about rereading at least one Vonnegut novel (Resolution 3; probably Sirens of Titan and likely for Banned Books Week) and completing a close reading of Moby Dick (Resolution 2).

By next Sunday, I hope to post my (tentative) autumn reading plans.

One thought on “Connoisseurs of summer light

  1. I LOVE Fall. It’s my favorite time of year. I too think of August as “the beginning of the end.” It’s still early, but I always start thinking of my favorite poem; “A Vagabond Song” by Bliss Carmen when I start thinking about Fall approaching.

    I actually thought of you and your family while I was visiting one of my sons in San Antonio recently. We visited the Witte Museum, which was really quite excellent. We spent two hours there exploring and still didn’t get to see everything.

    Right down the street from the museum is the Cheever Bookstore, which is a wonderful second hand shop under the same ownership for 30 years. It’s quiet with thick carpet and slightly uneven floors with books spilling off the shelves and into stacks on the floor. It has dark corners and other places illuminated by sunlight breaking in through high windows.

    If you are ever out that way, I highly recommend you add them both to your agenda.

    Liked by 1 person

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