• vilmablenman

Serena and Summer Say Bye

First, she said it surreptitiously in the Vogue interview. At the National Bank Open in Toronto, she said it clearly, with fanfare and tears, “I’m terrible at goodbyes, but goodbye Toronto!” End of an era. Serena is leaving tennis—right after the US Open which began last night with elaborate star-studded goodbye tributes to the tennis queen.

Soon there will be another emotional goodbye—the one for summer 2022. I don’t know if it’s that way for you too, but I’m terrible at saying goodbyes to summer. Every summer.

Early Saturday morning when I opened the front door a brisk autumn wind met me, asking me, “Don’t you remember me?” I screamed, “No!” Last week as I drove along Finch Avenue near the cemetery where a grove of maples rest in peace beside the road, I saw them—bright red and orange leaves glowing like neon signs against the green foliage. I shivered.

Not that I don’t like fall. I do. Well, kind of. I love its breezy easy feel before the rush of Christmas. I love its parade of carnival colours even when I must rake my neighbour’s leaves that like to wander over to my side so that I fill bags and bags of them though I have no maple tree in my yard. But I do not like fall’s daily newscast warning that winter is coming. Coming soon. Prepare for its coming.

Truth is, I fear saying goodbye to summer. I always have. Ever since I arrived in Canada and experienced the first heady romance with a warm season called summer—a season of swift growth and lush beauty; gardens that sprout almost overnight; public parks green with trails to meander through with a book or two; skies as blue as robins’ eggs, street festivals with food galore, something new to choose from every weekend—interesting and free--mostly free, and a place called “cottage country” where people rush to on weekends despite dreadful traffic jams, just to get to a lake that seduces you like sirens’ songs but stuns your senses when you jump in, it’s so cold, deliciously cold in the heat. And then, from somewhere across that lake a loon calls to its mate.

When I became a teacher, I found out that most of my students suffered from the same affliction as I do around the end of August—the end-of-summer sickness, the too-soon September blues.

Serena, we bid you goodbye as you sail into your new autumn ventures. Summer, we hold you tightly in embrace counting the days before we let the last warm ray fade away, before we let you go, before we grab the last pot of roaring red geraniums to take inside to save it from frost.

Some years ago in late August, I wrote this note, an ode to say goodbye to another summer.

Summer’s Swan Song

A certain September morning will come soon

a yellow-orange rush of leaves falling in a breezy frenzy

as I leave home to merge westbound on the highway.

But today there’s no memory of that morning,

just blue-green beauty straddled

between the sky and freshly cut grass and

beside the red geraniums posing in planters.

Today while the clematis clings to its vine

all is mine. I gaze at the sunlit sky believing

Michelangelo’s Muse is still at work mixing colours

to paint that celestial ceiling and Handel is busy

composing summer symphonies

with background breeze and leaves

a concert in my own backyard.

Today it’s hard to imagine snow or sleet

but some sunless December day I know

I’ll forget the feel of heat, forget the cardinal’s tweet

forget I saw trees standing on tiptoes trying

to kiss the sky or that I saw clouds bending low

between hues of blue openings, Eden’s orchard

so close by that I inhaled its apple-scented beauty

and glimpsed the distant lights of eternity.

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