01 August 2013

August Thoughts

Photograph of my garden from last August

Every year since 2001, the online magazine Slate has reprinted an article by David Plotz titled "August: Let's Get Rid of It." The article is humorous, but levels a litany of complaints against the eighth month of the year. Plotz laments everything about August from its lack of cultural events (there are no major holidays in August) to its weather, which he characterizes as "beastly hot and muggy." The month is so dull, so useless, and so forgettable that we'd be much better off shortening it or eliminating it from the calendar entirely, Plotz says.

I'm glad that Plotz isn't in charge of the calendar, because August happens to be one of my favorite months. I know that I'm probably in the minority on this--Plotz's article is linked in the "Further Reading" section of the Wikipedia page for August, suggesting at least some consensus. But to me, August is the best month of the summer. Where I live, it's typically warmer than June, but cooler than July, which really is "beastly hot and muggy" at times. The daytime temperatures of August are still high enough enjoy things like trips to the beach, while August evenings are tinged with the first delightful hints of autumnal air. Nights in July can be too hot and humid to be comfortable even as late as nine or ten o'clock, but nights in August are usually just right for going out and about.

August scenery also has a unique beauty not found earlier in the summer. The annual flowers are bigger and brighter, having had two or three months of growing time. The late afternoon light takes on a golden tinge, further brightening blossoms, foliage, and sky. At night, the stars seem a little clearer and closer somehow, with the Big Dipper hanging low in the Western sky on my walks around the neighborhood. August is also the time when the crickets really begin to chirp, adding a peaceful soundtrack to nighttime excursions.

I grant that August doesn't have many major holidays, but there are a couple of minor ones which I find fascinating. Take the Nordic crayfish party, for instance, which is typically held on a night in August, or the publishers' wayzgoose parties held on St. Bartholomew's Day. These holidays are unusual, a little quirky, and are fun ways to add celebrations to a month typically uncelebrated. Informal barbeques and picnics are also just as nice in August as they are earlier in the season--if not more so, due to the weather conditions I've already discussed.

My father falls in somewhat with Plotz's view of August, blaming his dislike of the month on years of it being the time when thoughts of the new school year encroached on summer vacation. Perhaps I've been spared this unpleasant association since I was homeschooled for half of my school years, and thus experienced a smoother transition between recreation and education. But even after beginning college a few years ago, I still don't find August to be anything but lovely. In fact, perhaps my experience beginning my first semester of college at Villanova University in late August has made me appreciate the month all the more, since I had to spend the last dreamy, drowsy days of that summer reviewing syllabi and cracking open assigned reading. I'm glad that fall classes at Harvard Extension don't typically begin until early September, so I can complete my college education without sacrificing my enjoyment of August.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Penny for your thoughts?