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Pining for an Endless Summer

Mary Bergman

Can you remember a winter where you were sorry to see it go? A fall where you wished you had carved more pumpkins or taken more hayrides?

I can’t, but so many of us mourn summer’s passing.

There are always summer laments: the books I’d planned to read this summer are sun faded and full of sand, the boat that never made it into the water sits high and dry on my uncle’s lawn. The water is already noticeably cooler. The nights are, too. The neighborhood children still play on the blacktop long past dinnertime, illuminated by streetlights.

On the Cape and Islands, the end of summer is bittersweet. Those of us who live here year round look forward to Labor Day, counting the long August days. The jellyfish in the harbor have overstayed their welcome. The chirping of crickets, almost electric, is louder than the late season house parties.

Over Labor Day, I went camping on the Outer Cape with friends from the Vineyard. We can’t seem to get it together to go much farther than that, the world over the bridge does not interest us.

The mix of people at the campground was strange to say the least--families who came prepared with everything, including the kitchen sink and young people with the clothes on their back and a single tent. They were all there because they want to get away from something, and I guess that’s why we were there, too.

And this summer, this part of the world was bursting at the seams. There we were, in the cultivated wilderness, with little between our tents and our neighbors. Undeterred, we hiked through the dunes at their widest part towards the backshore. Overripe beach plums were sugared with sand. A seal’s skeletal remains warned us not to wander far off the path. Here was the empty expanse we’d been hoping for.

We scaled a huge dune, practically crawling up the incline. Here was the beach, where Thoreau said we could put all America behind us! Imagine our surprise only to find that the roar of the waves was, instead, deafened by the din of the crowds of beach buggies who had finally gained access to the ORV corridor, after a summer’s-long standoff with the shorebirds.

Who wouldn’t want to spend the last lingering days of summer where the sea and sand meet?

I’ve heard a lot of people remark that this summer was one they are ready to move on from, and are already beginning to enjoy the slower pace of the shoulder season. There is much to love about this time of year: Concord grapes hanging heavy on the vine, all the air around them cloyingly sweet; the deep blue of the sea; and Julie K’s beach plum jelly, which I have already devoured.

Out here, it can seem that life is all about waiting--waiting for summer’s rush to end, or waiting for summer to arrive. I know locals who say their favorite season is autumn, but I am waving the banner for an endless summer. There is no other time of year that feels so full of promise. And that feeling is worth it, even if summer is full of people.