Once again, summer in south Louisiana is concluding with a bang rather than a whimper, as a hurricane punctuated the lead-up to Labor Day. The prospect of cooler temperatures — and the eventual end of hurricane season — has made the approach of autumn especially welcome in our part of the country after Isaac blew through town.
But in Wisconsin, or so I learned a couple of weeks ago, residents have recently coped with their own weather problems — namely, summer temperatures in the 70s.
This didn’t sound like a hardship to me when I heard about it while serving as a long-distance telephone guest on Wisconsin Public Radio the other day. But radio host Joy Cardin was lamenting the cooler temps as not very summery for folks in Wisconsin who were wrapping up the vacation season. If I lived in a region where the winter thermometer routinely dipped below freezing, maybe I’d see a cool summer day as an unwelcome sign, too.
One of the small pleasures of speaking to people in other parts of the country is the opportunity, at least for a few moments, to trade your problems for theirs.
You also discover, quite frequently, that many of the challenges in your community are shared by other communities, too. During a news break on Wisconsin Public Radio, for example, I learned that Wisconsin’s state government is now spending more tax dollars for prisons and correctional facilities than it spends for the University of Wisconsin system. The report reminded me that Louisiana is far from alone in the large amount of resources it devotes to locking up criminal offenders, many of whom have little education.
Luckily, my hour on WPR was devoted to a happier topic. I’d been asked to offer a few comments on the end of summer, with Wisconsin listeners calling in to share their own “What I Did This Summer” reflections.
Rob, from across the state line in Illinois, phoned to mention that he’d spent much of the summer renovating and expanding a backyard deck with his two sons, ages 18 and 20. Reluctant at first, Rob’s assistants eventually embraced the project as a family experience. I liked the story as yet more proof that the best summer memories are often built in your own backyard.
A 95-year-old caller revealed that she’s spent her summer publishing a children’s book, her first literary endeavor. Another caller reported that at age 70, she’d spent part of the summer planning her first sky-dive.
The stories gave me hope that life might still offer summer adventures, even in advanced age.
Denise, another caller, shared news of the tropical getaways she was planning for autumn. The end of summer doesn’t have to be sad, she implied, once you remember that other seasons offer their own opportunities for pleasure and reward.
I’ve been trying to keep these comforting thoughts close to heart during this stressful week, as we clean up from a hurricane and look toward cooler days — and, I hope, calmer winds.