An End to Summer

Forest Fire

I used to yearn for summer. No more.

Those who live in humid climes won’t get this, but we have an evaporative cooler. Sits on the roof, uses water, requires open windows, cheaper than AC. I love it. Any drop of moisture one can add to Colorado’s arid air is a blessing. But as in any aspect of life, there’s always a downside. Open windows, enter summer noise.

Our garage, the four-week project that took seven weeks was barely done when porch construction started next door, sawing and hammering and music for six weeks, because contractors cannot work without music. At least it was KUVO, the jazz station.

People gravitate to their yards in the summer, turn toward the light like sunflowers. Chattering and music and smell of searing meat. I wouldn’t begrudge them that, if they’d only stifle that woman with the shrill laugh that rends my ears. They paved the apartment parking lot at the end of the block. Add pungent tar to searing meat.

The tech industry girls who rent across the alley had a blowout party with screaming and laughter past one a.m. and many smaller gatherings around the picnic table in their backyard, which my bedroom window overlooks. We could hear enough to almost follow the conversations, resorted to sleeping with earplugs.

Periodically, planes take off over us, like they did when Stapleton was the airport. Not as loud, not as low, but noticeable. The lightrail’s long blasts at the 40thand York intersection blare like the train’s barreling down our alley, especially at night. Wasn’t that crossing gate software problem fixed? We were promised a quiet zone when it happened. That A-train’s been running for over two years.

We look forward to summer as a time when the school across the street is silent and empty and our parking options double. Last summer construction at the school started at 7 a.m. each workday morning with a contractor’s meeting across from our house, random street closures, and constant skip loaders and cranes, mechanical dinosaurs grinding up and down the block.

A charter middle school has been added to the high school. People drop off their sixth graders, who are on that flickering cusp between child and adolescent, so they seem first one and then the other and sometimes still need hand-holding. In all the 30-plus years I’ve lived here, I’ve never seen a traffic jam on my street and now there’s one every weekday morning.

These are regular irritants, the disturbances a writer who craves silence suffers every summer, every late August school startup. I pray for rain, to chase people indoors so I can work in peace, look forward to cold, when I can shut the windows. But this summer, and every summer for some time now, there’s more. More heat, less rain, more fires.

We endured the haze of wildfires, ours and New Mexico’s and Oregon’s and Wyoming’s and California’s wildfires. I can’t imagine the miles of forest that have burned, the orchards and fields, the homes. There were days the haze was dense, screening back trees and buildings a block away, turning downtown pale, and the air smelled of pitch.

The end of August brought briefly cooler air and the light penetrating the curtains when I woke made me hopeful. I kept looking at that light, its luminosity, the rinsed blue of the sky. For the first time in weeks I walked upslope past the school to the open plain of its parking lot and playing fields where there should be a view of the mountains. For the first time in weeks, I could see them, their outlines pronounced, the division between foothills and high country distinct, green swaths and rock outcroppings discernible as they hadn’t been all summer.

It irked me to hear weathercasters say cheerfully, “another beautiful day” when it was 95 and we’d had no rain in weeks and the horizon was so flat and empty we might as well have been in Wichita. Living in that haze had its effect on me, an effect I only realized when it lifted, the way experiences usually only become clear once they’re past. The smoke desolated my mood as well as my view. That yellow-grey sky to the west kept the wildfires aflame in my mind. Those fires still burn.

The smoke screen will return, may be returning on the ninety-degree wind kicking up right now, in mid-September, a reminder that this is our new normal, that summer isn’t what it used to be, may never be that again.

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12 Responses to An End to Summer

  1. normando1 says:

    At least there was iced coffee and ice cream bars…

  2. winnie barrett says:

    Here in the southeastern part of our country we have had so much mugginess and rain and even flooding, even before the hurricane. Now half of North Carolina is flooded, but we in the mountains had nothing but drizzle and a gentle breeze. We are thankful but pray for our coastal and inland friends whose rivers are still rising , have yet to crest, and some are expected to become 12 feet over flood stage. Feast or famine, it’s the new today.
    Blessings to each and all.

    • dubrava says:

      Winnie, because we have you and coastal loves in mind, we’ve been watching North Carolina news closely and sending prayers. Drought here and too much rain there seems to be the new pattern. Much love.

  3. At least we didn’t have those 100+ spells this summer. Although it is true that this never-ending summer is <fun. We just got back from Montreal, where it was mostly a relief from Denver's summer, except for a couple of days in the low 80s, which is no fun with the humidity factored in. But they don't use pennies anymore in Canada! Simple pleasures.

  4. Jenny-Lynn says:

    Summer goes on and on, with neighborhood quiet and mountain views–things I used to take for granted–very special occasions. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

  5. Andrea Jones says:

    I used to yearn for fall, but this year the cloudless skies just seem cruel. Whiff of smoke at 5:50 this a.m. had me straight up out of bed, checking every window. I’m glad to have found your blog, though. Thank you.

  6. Bob Jaeger says:

    A few weeks ago the trees and then the light turned pale, my yearly first clue of fall and relief on the way, but the temperature pushed me back to mid-August. Where am I? What am I doing here?

  7. Gwen Scott says:

    I had your elective at DSA three years ago and I still keep up with your blogs. I had to comment because this resonates with me so much. The moment I started to like stormy weather was the moment we stopped having it. It’s so dry and hot and it’s keeping me from the very important job of making fall-themed playlists. A lot of it is incredibly hard to control, but I hope that the nearby construction settles down at the very least.

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