Now is the autumn of our…of our…well, I’ll leave the seasonal metaphors to Shakespeare, but now begins one of those strange times where our perception and the calendar of society doesn’t quite match up with the universe around us. Summer starts June 20th or so and not on Memorial Day, the new year begins, well that’s somewhat debatable – I guess you can choose whichever solstice or equinox you like best but it really isn’t January 1st, and summer is still with us for a few more weeks and has not ended just because Labor Day has come and gone. Still, in relation to the other arbitrary markings of the passing year and changing seasons this one seems to resonate more than most.
Personally I believe this happens because we were conditioned for it through our primary schooling. All the way through high school, the school year typically began right around Labor Day. Memorial Day would happen but usually there were still a few weeks more of schooling, and the midway point of the year always seemed to happen sometime in late January or early February, This makes sense if you think about. With a school year that covered close to ten months of the calendar year, trying to make the Christmas break serve as the halfway mark would create a disproportionately unbalanced curriculum.
So Labor Day became the point where things started anew. This is something that seems to stay with people as we become adults. We scramble to get our vacations in before August is over, even though the temperatures and weather conditions that we prize so highly can be counted on sticking around usually into early October. Granted, for many people this is a reality because their own kids are on the schedule we once held, so they don’t have the freedom to come and go as they choose, but that isn’t the only example of the before and after that the first Monday of September brings with it.
Many businesses that can offer their employees half days on Friday throughout the summer, but expect them to be around all day once the calendar turns. Logically it makes no sense other than to celebrate summer as the time of reduced expectations and seasonal fun. I mean, if a business can afford to reduce their hours then, surely it can do so the rest of the year. Personally I think it’s more than that. It’s certainly something that I have felt in how I approach my own life and I think it goes back to the conditioning we received through our schooling years, and possibly something even more instinctual than that.
Now is the time for renewed focus on achievement. Now is also the time that we respect the noticeably shorter days and the approach of winter. Central heating, Gore-Tex and hot chocolate aside, we still dread the coming cold dark days as something that must be endured and so we work harder, becoming more productive as if we were squirrels storing our nuts for the winter. We feel a primordial urge to prepare ourselves and since that no longer means harvesting crops (well at least not for most of us) and finding better shelter (once again, not all of us) we focus that energy into our work.
For me I noticed something about myself that seemed to hold true about how I worked creatively, at least until I spent four consecutive years in the reasonably unseasonable Key West. My work and my growth mirrored the seasons. In the fall I would be diligent, creating, growing, doing some of my strongest work and raising myself to the next level. In the winter I would “hibernate” not necessarily doing too much in the way of productivity and growth but rather reflecting on the work I’d been doing leading up to it. When spring would come around that reflection would prove to be the seeds that turned into action, and I would find myself refining and solidifying the work I’d accomplished in the fall. Finally summer was, as it always had been, a time for letting all of that go, recharging my batteries, not concerning myself too much with anything outside of the visceral and enjoyable. Once summer vacation, always summer vacation.
I know when I go to work tonight no matter how busy we may or may not be, the topic of conversation among the customers will revolve around two things: what they did that summer and what prospects their work holds for them in the fall. Without thinking about it or even trying to, they will have mentally switched gears. Over the next several weeks this change will become even more noticeable, and even though there will be some lingering resentment at the ending of summer, there will be a continued happy acceptance of the new season. (This I’m sure to see most frequently on Saturday afternoons, when people will be watching college football and cheerfully recounting great memories of autumn weekends and all that comes with them.)
I’d even be willing to bet that most people will not even notice when summer actually ends. There will of course be notifications on the news and online – “Today the autumnal equinox will happen at such and such a time” – but between the hoopla that surrounds Labor Day, the changing weather patterns (these last few years I’ve been up north it seems like each season is showing up later and sticking around longer) and the fact that most people have already traded their shorts and sundresses for jeans and sweaters, 10:41 am September 22nd will come and go with nobody knowing the difference.
I know that I probably won’t notice it. Whether I want to or not my habits already tell me I’ll have switched gears and found a different focus on what I’m doing and how I’m living. It isn’t even something I think about or choose. It just simply is. Even the conditional things if you will, the choices I make that have very little direct influence on my creative work, will have a different set of priorities, and the amount of effort I’d have to put into proving myself wrong, well, it simply won’t be worth the effort. In fact, as the season changes, there is really only one thing I have to do that requires conscious effort and isn’t just a instinctual conditioned response:
I need to buy more socks.