I was not so productive this summer as I thought I would be. I have kept up on my German, and have been making regular efforts to restore my lost--in some cases never acquired--mathematical acumen. Nonetheless, summer is flying, and I have limited yields to show of a useful nature. What I take from this summer are memories, and even those fade with time. I could write them all down in an effort to preserve them, perhaps I have written many of them down already, but next summer will hold new memories, and it seems silly to try to hold onto them all. Some of the best will win out, but ultimately they are all going to the same place.
Our visit to the Toledo Museum of Art this summer gave me a new appreciation for Van Gogh, whose work triggered my slightly morose meditations this evening.
In this painting, at least to my eyes, autumn is falling. Summer is fading into golden splendor, but the bare hard bones of winter are already lurking underneath. The summer is being swallowed; it was a fleeting thing and could not hold out against the inexorable march of time.
The old peasant knows this. He knows the summer can not and will not last, and so he is making preparations for the winter which is to come. For whatever reason, he makes his preparations alone. His house, jutting up before the darkening skies in the backdrop, appears to be perched precariously on its foundations.
That bent man and his rickety windmill have seen many of these summers come and go, but there will be spring and fall long after he has seen his last, and he may yet see more summers long after he has grown weary of them; perhaps he is weary of them already.
There are obviously other lenses through which the painting might be viewed, but this was the one that struck me on first glance.
My summer is fading and it is always a question whether I have sufficiently prepared for the time to come. Questions always rise up, taunting with imagined missed opportunities, and reproaching me that I did not drive myself like a madman to greater feats of self improvement. But why fret over such things? Next year will see another summer with new opportunities, new friends, and new memories to forget in the fullness of time.
What we learn from the peasant is persistence. Just because he has seen summer die every time does not mean that he gives up and dies with it. He prepares himself for his coming labors; he puts his head down, harvests, and remembers that there will always be the hope of good times ahead.
But let us be more optimistic yet, because we are not necessarily like this peasant. Fond though I am of the Sun's warm rays, summer is more beautiful in art and fiction than reality. It is also humid, and crowded, and pungent, and lazy; it can be green, but it is more often charred brown, and it is not forgiving to the weak.
Autumn is coming in all of her splendor. The caress of the wind will replace the stifling humidity, and temperance will stand in the stead of extreme heat. Winter will come, and that will suck royally, but better times will come before and follow after.
So I bid this summer, and its memories, adieu; not with the morose countenance of one leaving something behind, but with the contented recognition that the past can not be changed, nor re-lived, and we have but to accept it gracefully. I leave it with the expectation of one who has many summers yet to come, and who looks forward perhaps to better things even than summer.