(This article was first published in 2015)
To borrow a hockey metaphor, if June and July designate the first and second periods of summer, then surely August tells us that we are now deep within the final period of this glorious season. The changes abound in subtle but perceptible ways; the shrinking minutes of daylight ruled by the position of the sun, the roadside woodbine shading from emerald to crimson, the smaller maples showing reds and orange.
Those of us living near the marsh note the ribbons of gold streaking the once verdant salt hay of July. Hummingbirds have returned from their nesting period to feed at the nectar stations, storing energy and stamina for the long migration south. This will commence later this month, when many of us will be trying to ignore the inexorable change so evident in our surroundings, hoping grasp just a few more golden moments.
For the first time in years, our apple trees in the backyard are laden with ripening fruit. I take this as a sign of good things to come. A milder winter, perhaps? Or maybe it just means that the apples were properly pollinated this past spring. But Apple Crisp is a wonderful thing, and my beloved prepares it exquisitely.
On Thursday, I shot through Fox Creek and around Choate Island to the Essex River. The foliage of Oaks that spill to the edge of the marshland has taken on a lighter hue, and the seal bobbing along the surface seemed content to just flow with the current. Our waters are now at the height of their beauty, and I am reminded of how blessed we are to live here, at this time in our history.
But August can also be mornings of brilliant sunshine that crash into afternoons of wicked storms with pelting rain and raging thunder. These displays not only amaze and inspire, but also remind the philosophical that we are not in charge. We exist only on borrowed minutes, and every moment is one to be savored.
As I pace out the final weeks of my sixth decade, I grow increasingly aware of the brevity of our time here. It seems only yesterday that I was a kid on the river; my older brothers and their friend’s busy building rafts and scavenging the marsh and creeks for bounty left ashore by the ebbing tide. We collected discarded soda bottles to cash in at Van’s Variety on East Street. We roamed Roger’s Meadow and the surrounding woods and snuck into Miss Clarita’s Cottage on the river bank where Spillers Lane now sits.
Our lives were lived out of doors, our playground a natural world of river and woods. But please don’t take this as a rant of an old man. No, far from it. This is more of a paean to an Ipswich of not so long ago. A town that my wonderful neighbor once described as a place where, “People didn’t have much, but everyone was happy.” Pleasures were simpler, contentment more common. Now that’s not such a bad thing, is it?