august wrap up
i mean summer five years ago
August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time. — Sylvia Plath
Here is something I have learned about summer: the nights are louder. Crickets chirp, cars roll down the road, and soft slight noises stream from my laptop, the time devoid of school-related anxiety. Every August night brims with possibility, ready to be seized, opening a chasm that asks who are you and what do you want and will you come clean the kitchen, the stove is covered in flour. What have I been doing during my August of possibility, one might wonder. Why is this post being written ten days in advance of the end of the month? Well, I’m off to British Columbia. Cheerful claustrophobic Canada. I ache for Europe. My mother found a brand of mint lemonade we’ve only had in Belgrade and the taste makes me weep. Proust’s madeleines have nothing on an Eastern European being reminded of home. Strangely enough—perhaps a side effect from a vacation where I cried over an A and my grandfather incredulously asked my parents if they were putting pressure on me—I crave physics, which is a sure sign of impending doom. Occasionally my heart rate will speed up for no apparent reason. I assume this is an attempt to mimic the cycle of school-related stress; indeed I still dream of failed forces tests and education’s doors slamming shut. Clearly I am ready for senior year.
So what happened in August? I am struggling to discern a narrative from fragmented events. I swam for a grand total of 4.5 hours in two weeks, which may not seem like a lot but with my sedentary habits is a minor miracle. I turned seventeen, had a sundae in my favorite dessert place, and could not even make eye contact with the cute waiter (a modern tragedy). I achieved new heights of neuroses and reached eleven months worth of daily journaling, which no one but me seems to regard as a feat. Perhaps I talk about it too much. In general it was a rather satisfactory month, although I could have done with less swimming and fewer university websites. It is terribly repetitive to be banging on about how terrifying it is that high school is ending and I have to make life decisions now, but it is my dominant worry. Smaller concerns include baking a decent pavlova and curing the irritating itch on my left arm.
This is the eighth of my monthly wrap-up newsletters. My aim with this recurring section of nowhaunting is to describe and comment on the media I have engaged with during the month, give some personal updates on life and writing, then provide some thoughts on what lies ahead. Each month of the year feels precious and distinct to me, so the goal of this is to collate thoughts I would have had on my Tumblr into a cohesive article.
August was quite a bit more satisfying than last month in terms of music, although it’s regrettable that my current taste makes me out to be an elderly man who kicks kids off my lawn and argues about politics at the dinner table. My top three artists are as follows: Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, and The Beatles. A particular highlight was “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan (met with universal annoyance when I played it during a long drive) and “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles (which I find stupendously catchy). I listened to “Wednesday Morning, 3AM” by Simon & Garfunkel this month, which is rather ironic as this paragraph is being written on Monday morning, 4am. Perhaps the two would consent to let me update things a little bit. Although I have listened to it before, “The Freewhelin’ Bob Dylan” became a regular soundtrack for summer walks and as such deserves to be referenced here. It may be a predictable choice, but I believe that “Blowin’ in the Wind” is the best song on the album. On the whole, however, I’m quite pleased that I had the opportunity to listen to a few new albums and enjoyed them so much.
I’m not sure whether I’m cursed or whether it’s happening subconsciously, but allow me to address an interesting phenomenon. Over the course of each of my years in high school, I’ve consumed a lot of media of a particular type. In freshman year it was books, in sophomore year it was movies, and in junior year it was television. When summer comes, however, the particular interest dies out to make way for the new one. It’s very strange and remarkably consistent (except this year, although perhaps the pattern will become clearer in hindsight). I watched just two seasons of television this month, a far cry from my former rapid pace. Granted, we are three weeks into the month, but I can’t imagine family vacation will afford much time for catching up on shows. I digress. It’s four in the morning. The new season of Never Have I Ever was perhaps not as robust as the first two but nevertheless entertaining television. And at long last I finished season three of Succession, which is exactly as good as everyone says it is and best consumed in small doses over many months so the hiatus is less painful. I’m hoping to finish season three of The Crown soon and start Downton Abbey.
Every year I look forward to summer as a time of unlimited reading, and every year I’m forced to confront the fact that I concentrate best in the dead of winter when I have several other things to worry about. Nevertheless, I did manage to pack in a few good reads. After cursing Hemingway out to everyone I knew (and a few people I didn’t), I shamefacedly afforded A Farewell to Arms the five stars it rightfully deserved. This is becoming an embarrassing habit—five stars to novels or authors I cast aside when I was younger. My apologies, Ernest, perhaps I’ll give The Old Man and the Sea another shot. Read a few books of poetry—have been absentmindedly paging through a volume of Emily Dickinson I got for my birthday—and finished my Harry Potter reread. The books my aunt gave me are now littered with highlighted quotes and annotations about how much I adore Ron Weasley. I think it’s right to leave your mark on books. I intend to read War and Peace very soon, mostly because I have said I’ll read it for over a year now and I dislike having to qualify my love for Russian literature with not having read it. Soon! I promise, I will lug all three volumes across the country if I have to.
The section of my July post devoted to films begins with this sentence: 2022, or, as I like to call it, the year in which I constantly said I would like to watch as many movies as I used to and did nothing to make that a reality. This month, however, I watched nine films in three weeks, which is an improvement from spending about four hours a month whinging about how I would like to watch more films. (I would like to remind the jury that this is a list of movies I watched in one month—I have the patience, and I did earn a 95 in science in that time period. The problem is beating my executive dysfunction to a pulp, which I am working on.) My favorites from August were The Big City and Hour of the Wolf. No Bergman rewatches, but I did score a Criterion release of The Seventh Seal and, of course, Hour of the Wolf is one of his. I can confirm that distance has not lessened my love for classic film or my Criterion subscription, which has been happily unfrozen. Unfortunately this has also resulted in my starting far more conversations about the French New Wave, which many have referred to as an irritating side effect.
Time for a personal update, which I am writing at 4:46am nine days before the month ends. The early date is born of an impending vacation, so it must be drafted in advance. I must say, I dislike this method of updating (and not just because I desire immediate feedback on everything I’ve ever written). Some fun news to share, though. One of my poems is being published in February in an online journal! I was rejected for publication from another journal, so I will put the piece up on my Substack. It will be up by the time this posts, a poem entitled “The Insomniac Talks to Herself in the Dark”. My third submission was to a poetry contest for three thousand dollars. Winners will be announced next April and hopefully I stand a chance. In addition I wrote almost four thousand words for a short story and abandoned the last few scenes. It features a writer who falls in love with the ghost haunting his house and may be coming to a newsletter near you in October. And updates on writing are all you can expect from someone who spent a month locked in her room trying to avoid all human contact, mind.
Summer’s done, she’s taking her final bow, she’s ushering us back into the way of things. But I am clinging to her heels, I am pinching the sand between my fingers, I am trying to make this last because when it ends everything changes. I’m thinking of Ozu’s The End of Summer, his penultimate film, the one where families are upended and smoke comes from the chimney and change is a must, but so is grief for what’s lost. I’ll miss these summers where I can do whatever I like, where well-placed words are enough to drop a loathed course, where I wake up mid-morning and spend most of the day in service to whims. Perhaps, however, perhaps I won’t miss frantic anxiety bubbling in my chest at random, or long nights spent trying to figure out what, exactly, is infected in my body, or sighing as I attempt to acquiesce to a sister’s demands. And in the end, here’s what I’m saying:
You still crave lemonade, but the taste doesn’t satisfy you as much as it used to. You still crave summer, but sometimes you mean summer, five years ago. You remember your umbrella, you check up on people to see if they got home, you leave places early to go home and make toast. — Alida Nugent