August can be a rough month. The heat reaches its peak, and here in Michigan, where people tenaciously cling to the false belief that it doesn’t get hot enough to need an air conditioner, we sweat. Humidity rolls in off the lake, bringing along intermittent rain showers that manage to miss our yard entirely. The grass turns crunchy and brown, and the kids have to wear shoes if they don’t want to hurt their feet.
The flowers, luxurious in their vibrant color and fresh greenery in June, are fading away into wilted, brown heads begging to be cut back. One more task nobody wants to tackle when their shirt is already clinging to a sweaty back.
The excitement of summer has followed the same course as the flowers. Energized by the warmth and increasing daylight in May, by late August we crave the promise of autumn. We’re tired. We’ve been on vacations, we’ve thrown ourselves into yard work and home projects and summer camp and gardening. Somewhere beneath the sticky humidity pressing on our skin, we itch for change.
It shouldn’t surprise me that August can be hard. I feel the same every February, August’s opposite. Winter has reached its frigid peak, I’m sick of snow and darkness and wearing fifteen layers of clothing, and I know spring is close. Just not close enough.
Autumn is my favorite season. Maybe because, at heart, I’m a jeans and sweatshirt kind of girl. I love the swirl of gold and orange leaves around my feet while I take a walk. Hot apple cider with cinnamon-sugared donuts, hay rides with my family, eating apples right from the tree. The crisp night air that lets me throw open all the windows and snuggle underneath warm covers. Even the icy-scented air and hint of frost on my roof. The promise of cozy evenings spent reading by the fire, of family gatherings around meals, of lights and singing and Christmas.
It’s the waiting that makes August hard. Knowing that change is on the horizon, bringing a fresh set of circumstances. School will start again, along with all its accompanying activities. The busyness of each day will shift from yard work and projects to teaching and shuttling kids to music lessons and gymnastics classes.
I get impatient with waiting. It feels too much like indecision, an awful gnawing feeling that I don’t know what to do and it doesn’t matter anyway because I’ll still just be… waiting. So why bother? Why try to muster up energy I don’t have? It’d be so much easier to wile away the time on the unimportant, to slide into laziness and stagnation.
But I have to remind myself that periods of waiting are a gift. With nothing else pressing, no urgent deadlines or mire of busyness, they offer a chance to prepare for the season that’s coming. For me, that means overcoming my heat-induced inertia and ordering my kids’ schoolbooks. Getting our school room cleaned out and organized. Tackling last-minute cleaning tasks (like those dusty glass light fixtures) that will enable me to feel prepared when school starts. It means continuing to squeeze in as much writing time as I can, since the days are coming when I’ll have even less than I have now.
There’s a choice in waiting, to view it as a nuisance that must be endured, or as a season to be embraced. And it doesn’t only come in August and February–waiting is an inevitable part of life. We eschew the slow and seemingly unproductive in our culture, but maybe if we looked on this time as an opportunity, we’d see it as a gift. Not only to prepare for what lies ahead, but to reflect on where we’ve been. To reevaluate our priorities and set goals that will bring positive change.
And in the midst of choosing to overcome my inertia, to expend the energy I didn’t think I had, I find my strength renewed. The tasks aren’t as burdensome. The feeling of indecision vanishes as I find direction. The waiting isn’t as hard.
Crickets and cicadas sing their late summer nighttime chorus through my open window. But a different sort of breeze blows on my face as a write. Fresh. Cool. A hint of what is to come.
I find the promise of autumn waiting as my reward.