Random Thoughts for the End of July

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It feels like the waning end of summer here in Madison, even though it’s not even officially August yet.  Our step-daughter goes back to school in just two weeks, and I find myself jealous for what summer felt like before adulthood and the pressing sense that something meaningful should be accomplished during these warm months.  My husband has taken to pretending that he’s retired during the summer, because when you’re retired (we hope), there’s nothing you really need to accomplish anymore.  That might sound depressing to a lot of people, but would be just fine with me.

I think my patience with summer has run out early in part because of the lack of rain.  The temptation to throw in the towel, stop watering and let everything go to hell grows stronger with each thunderstorm that rumbles through our area leaving behind no more than a couple drops of rain.  When I see a healthy plant around town, all I can think of is the amount of dedication and hours spent with a water hose it must have taken to keep anything green in this weather.

It’s hard to believe that there’s still August ahead of us, always for me the worse stretch of summer weather.  Maybe in some kind of karmic reversal, August will be mild and balmy and wet.  Maybe anything at this point will feel mild and balmy and wet compared to July.

Next week, our step-daughter has another birthday, and already I feel her creeping towards adulthood in restless fits and starts.  I’ve been working on an essay about the experience of guiding a young girl towards womanhood in a world that, I believe, still places less value on the lives of women.  How do you explain what “age-appropriate” clothes means in a world that sexualizes younger and younger girls?  How do you help her deal with the little boy who stalked her and her friends at the public swimming pool?  It’s one thing to slam into the hard, cold wall of sexism for yourself as an adult.  But how do you equip your daughter to live with that reality?  What do you tell and what do you keep to yourself?  How do you deal with the white hot anger at the way things are that makes you want to stomp a super-hero foot onto the ground Hulk-like and have the power to send out shock waves that would upend sexism around the globe?

I’m three classes away from completing my summer yoga challenge at Yoga In Madison, an enterprise which involves the sheer joy of placing shiny stars on a chart for each yoga class I attend.  Oh, if we only we got shiny stars on a chart for every time we didn’t lose our temper with our spouse or chose not to speak out loud the mean thought flitting through our head.  Surely there’s money to be made in such a chart, or would the joy of the shiny star fade with time?  Does it matter that everyone can see the chart?  Maybe we need a Facebook app where everyone would give themselves gold stars for their good deeds for all the world could see.

July is almost over and I find myself thinking about endings.  How do you know when something’s done?  How do you know when you’ve finished writing a story?  How do you know when a painting is perfect, or as perfect as it will ever get and it’s time to step away?  How do you know when a friendship has simply run its course?  Can we really ever master something and move on?  A song?  A guitar chord?  A yoga pose?  Being a parent, a spouse, a friend?  When is childhood over, or should it really end at all?  When have you written just enough?

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