A friend of mine is pulled in many directions, which is why she just got around to giving me a gift calendar for 2012.
I know how these things happen. A few years ago, I opened my mailbox around Valentine’s Day and discovered that another friend had sent along a Christmas poem, apparently resigned that late was better than never. I’ve missed my share of deadlines with this kind of stuff, too. The other day, while returning a book to the shelf, I noticed inside a holiday card I’d meant to mail last December. Maybe I’ll go ahead and stick a stamp on it this summer, a bit of yuletide cheer for the Fourth of July.
The calendar, an annual project of The Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program and ConocoPhillips, was worth the wait. Each month of the calendar features a Louisiana bird, and I picked up the year in May, dazzled by photographer David Chauvin’s spectacular picture of a tricolored heron.
Receiving a calendar in the middle of the year is a useful reminder of how quickly a year passes. Flipping through months already gone can be like watching one of those time-lapse images of a flower bursting into bloom. When glanced through the rearview mirror, a year seems not so solid a thing, adding up to just a handful of pages receding from view.
I’ve enjoyed looking at the bird pictures on my belated calendar, lovely snapshots that offer the pleasing illusion of time stopped for our inspection. It’s nice to linger over January’s pin-up bird, the roseate spoonbill, and consider a world in which winged creatures might hang suspended, like kites in a toy shop, until we took the time to notice them.
But the days of summer glide by, regardless of whether we choose to watch the pageant of the season. Here’s Henry David Thoreau, remarking on this reality in a journal entry from Aug. 19, 1851:
“The grass in the high pastures is almost as dry as hay. The seasons do not cease a moment to revolve . . . If you are not out at the right instant, the summer may go by and you not see it. How much of the year is spring and fall! How little can be called summer! The grass is no sooner grown than it begins to wither.”
Thoreau’s worry over the fleetingness of summer seems very much a New England concern, and maybe a little off-key for those of us touched by the longer summers of the Deep South. But even here, the season has a way of slipping through our awareness while we’re doing other things — answering email, going to the dentist, catching up on the latest celebrity divorce.
The telescope my 11-year-old son got for Christmas leans in a corner near our front door, poised like a pioneer’s rifle for when it might be needed. Last month, as the school year drew to a close, he penciled in some sky-gazing on his list of things to do this summer.
Taking a few moments to watch the world each day isn’t such a bad summer resolution, I suppose. Maybe Thoreau’s friendly warning is worth repeating: “If you are not out at the right instant, the summer may go by and you not see it.”
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