So Comes Summer
This weekend marks the beginning of summer. While last year’s image was wonderfully exuberant, this year’s theme draws on nostalgia. (Somber times ask for compassionate restraint.)
According to that very memorable and oft quoted scene from Mad Men’s “The Wheel” episode a few seasons back, Don Draper spoke of this emotion most eloquently:
“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. … in Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. … it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”
It is, sometimes, shocking to realize how often and unexpected those twinges in your heart can be. They accumulate with every relationship severed, every suitcase packed, every season spent.
While thoughts on nostalgia range from Milan Kundera’s wickedly ironic, “In the sunset of dissolution, everything is illuminated by the aura of nostalgia, even the guillotine,” to George Wildman Ball’s pragmatic, “Nostalgia is a seductive liar,” there is, for most of us, that “place where we ache to go again.”
Someone who captured it beautifully is Gary Whitehead in his poem:
“First Year Teacher to His Students”
Go now into summer, into the backs of cars,
into the black maws of your own changing,
onto the boardwalks of a thousand splinters,
onto the beaches of a hundred fond memories
in wait, where the sea in all its indefatigability
stammers at the invitation. Go to your vacation,
to the late morning cool of your basement rooms,
the honeysuckle evening of the first kiss, the first
dip and pivot, swivel and twist. Go to where
the clipper ships sail far upriver, where the salmon
swim in the clean, cool pools just to spawn.
Wake to what the spider unspools into a silver
dawn dripping with light. Sleep in sleeping bags,
sleep in sand, sleep at someone else’s house
in a land you’ve never been, where the dreamers
dream in a language you only half understand.
Slip beneath the sheets, slide toward the plate,
swing beneath the bandstand where the secret
things await. Be glad, or be sad if you want,
but be, and be a part of all that marches past
like a parade, and wade through it or swim in it
or dive in it with your eyes open and your mind
open to wind, rain, long days of sun and longer
nights of city lights mixing on wet streets like paint.
Wishing all of you an aesthetically wondrous weekend at a time designated for memorial. Do spend some part of it revering this place we call home.
“First Year Teacher to His Students” by Gary J. Whitehead, from Measuring Cubits While the Thunder Claps. © David Robert Brooks, 2008. Reprinted with permission.
Dock; Lake Guymard, Marc Yankus