PANAMA CITY BEACH — The turning of the season has brought its share of miseries. A death in the family. Illness. Calamity on the road. The first anniversary of another death in the family.
And yet, impossibly, this remains my favorite time of year.
It’s the month my sister was born, and her first son as well. The month I was married (three decades ago, now). The month I mark “Breakaway Day” (40 years, as of Sept. 13).
After a summer of heat and humidity that sapped the will and stifled activity, the world feels ready to be lived in again. The morning sky is a featureless dome of pastel blue when it isn’t filled by fluffy white cumulous clouds. The air feels crisp, smells clean, and makes me feel alive.
Yes, there’s a strong undercurrent of nostalgia — but the best kind. Time collides with recollection on the wake of a passing cold front, stirring echoes of past autumns.
In the misty distance are hints of football Friday nights in the 1970s and ’80s, hanging out with my buddies, driving my first car (a Ford Galaxy 500) with the windows down. From almost as far back comes the reminder of a being newly-wed college student and stopping to enjoy the sunshine between classes at Lake Alice. And later, standing with the kids on early school mornings to wait for the bus. My daughter’s Halloween birthdays.
More recently, the scent of fall in the atmosphere or tumble of positive ions on the breeze bring alive the months we rented a home a few blocks from the Gulf and spent our evenings walking the shoreline.
So yes, there is much joy in the memories that September fosters. But it has been a bad month, too. One in which the hits keep coming. One of those times when all you can do is hunch your shoulders, keep your head down, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I have held people while they cried. Helped to carry a coffin. Given bad news over a phone. Stood by, helpless. Tried to solve problems. Gotten sick and gotten better. Suffered a surreal moment in an old church in my hometown.
And just the other night, back home and back in my routine, I stood in the dark under a crescent moon while the dogs sniffed and circled and looked for places to do their thing, and I looked at the stars. Sometimes I can fool myself into thinking it’s a different year, a different place — the stars are the same, after all, and the air is perfect.
But not this time. This time, despite the energy of the sky and atmosphere, it was all too much.
I saw chain lightning threaten in distant clouds, silent and ominous. The rain never came, the storm never materialized. And yet, it continues to feel like the bottom could drop out, lightning strike, rain pummel, and darkness fall.
Me? I’m holding out hope for October.