Friday, September 23, 2016

'Summer's lease hath all too short a date'

Sanderlings congregate at the water's edge.

There is a change in the air at the summer house. The sky is an intense blue, the sun warm on my shoulders, and the cool breeze oh so pleasant; but they signal the approach to the end of the season and prelude to winter.

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date,” wrote William Shakespeare in Sonnet 18. My sentiments exactly.

Gladys Taber chronicled the passing of the season from the perch of her pre-Colonial farmhouse in rural Connecticut.

“I know fall is here, although the world is still green with summer,” she said. “And I feel an urgency to gather in all the loveliness of the past blazing days and star-cool nights and keep them forever.”

We grill hamburgers and eat them inside at the dining room table. They taste even better, if possible, than the ones we’ve enjoyed all season long because we know these simple feasts are numbered. My father is cold, and he shuts all the windows.

After lunch, my mother and I sit in the sun dappled by the old tree in the backyard. We chat and begin reading magazines, but before long we have goose bumps on our arms and return to the warmth of the house.

A short time later, however, we grow restless spending such a lovely day inside. We slip into our sweatshirts and head to the beach, but it no longer resembles the summer seashore. There is a new stone pathway that leads down to the water. Where there was sand, there is now a sea of stones stretching across the entire beach.

We sit on a flat-topped boulder and watch sanderlings in parties of ten to twelve run ahead of oncoming waves. These small, eight-inch members of the sandpiper family have a white head and underbelly and gray upper parts. Their bill is short, their back heavily spotted and the bend of their wing is black. They cluster together and move in tandem.

As I approach, I startle them; and they take to the air in unison landing farther down the beach. Then once again, on spindly legs they race in nature’s dance dodging the waves.

Sandpipers are such interesting creatures. Their mysterious comings and goings seem to me “much ado about nothing”, as they hop, lunge and fly about with nervous energy.

Yet I think that sometimes we long for the security of a sandpiper’s life, congregating together in groups, following the leader, choosing a seemingly happy, carefree existence.

“Most of us spend a lot of time seeking happiness and always feel that we shall achieve it magically,” wrote Taber. “If we are fortunate, we realize at some point in our search that we are taking the wrong path. Happiness is, in the end, an attitude of mind. It involves acceptance of reality and a warm appreciation of such simple things as a friend looking happy when we meet unexpectedly or the way the first star comes out at twilight.”

The day is waning, and the cool sea breeze biting. Yet I linger. I am content to watch the sanderlings in their habitat, weaving their magical dance.

Their stay is short. By October, they will be gone. It is rare to see them here in winter.

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