Driving past a sports complex on the way to lunch today, I caught the delectable aroma of newly-mowed lawn. A summer smell, to be sure, but one we can enjoy for a few more weeks as summer makes a quiet exit.
It's been cool and gray here in northern Wisconsin, but today - a week away from the start of school - the pre-Labor Day heat wave took force. It was humid and hot but yet there were hints of things to come, a quickening of the pace of life, a sense of expectation in the air.
We need to mark this season with some ritual. I must find a new one this year, since I am no longer teaching college journalism.
There were a few years when I was in grade school, when my father would declare a picnic day to mark the end of summer. We would pile in the car about noon with blankets and baskets and suntan lotion and bug spray and then make our way to a park north of the city. Very often our picnic area was along the shore where this photo was shot.
We would set up camp and while hamburgers or hot dogs cooked, we kids played along the rocks and riprap that lined the shore. There were always potato chips and potato salad and fruit for dessert and perhaps chocolate cupcakes. In the afternoon, my father napped on a blanket in the shade, my mother read and we continued our play. Sometimes I just found a rock and sat there looking out at the freighters and ferries in the distance. I guess I was looking toward the future. As I grew older, I was restless, looking for a means of escape. I yearned to be on those boats, going somewhere. I still find the sight of boats in the distance mesmerizing.
We stayed at the park all day, building a bonfire around 7 p.m. We'd gather around it for a time, and my parents played trivia games with us. Then, we'd pack the old Ford and head toward home, with a mosquito bite or two and maybe a scratch and a keen sense of exhaustion.
I always slept well the night after one of those picnics, filled with fresh air from the day behind and anticipation for the new year ahead.