The Last Days of Summer



“What time is it?” My wife Delia asks.


“What’s our agenda?”


It’s my daily morning question. This pandemic has forced me to maximize every hour of the day. You see, at my age, every day is a blessing, or shall I say, a “bonus.” While we are still around, we want to help.


As retirees, we know that there is not much we can do towards improving the world in a more direct way. But there is something we can do better, and that is to spread hope to a world enveloped by fear and uncertainty. We can raise even a little the heavy atmosphere of the times.


Of course, we cannot give that which we do not have. So we seek God’s help who speaks to us through His creation by immersing ourselves in the beauty of the natural world and “recharging” ourselves by visiting the beautiful places around the NY area and be saturated by the healing ambiance of nature. Recharged, we “contaminate” everyone we meet with our atmosphere of hope.


Few in this generation have been born to an environment that provides spiritual support. Even as we have dominated nature with our iPods , mobile phones, tablets, etc., there is actually little we see in nature that is ours.


It was not so in my generation. As children, we did not study nature. We inhaled it. It was everywhere. We were the dancing grass, the crystal waters, the clear skies.


Today, however, we need to re-connect, to re-member our birthright.


So last night we arrived late after a two-day trip of hiking, picnicking, and fishing in Pennsylvania. The whole week we had been busy visiting parks and building castles in the sand with my grandnephew Noah.


Why are we doing this? First of all, summer is the best time because it is the peak season when most of the parks are open. Secondly, August is the last call to experience summer before the leaves begin to fall.


The highlight of our “immersion” was our visit to Calverton, Long Island NY, where sprawls Lavender by the Bay, a 17-acre farm of lavender plants, lavender and the lavender plant being my wife’s favorite color and plant respectively. I was not too keen on going there, but when we arrived I was overwhelmed by the swarm of lavender plants in bloom. I was wary of the pollinating bees. Surprisingly, as we walked through the fields, not a single bee bothered us. The fragrance, the fields in bloom gave me a sense of calm and peace I could not describe it stayed with me the whole day. It recharged me.


“So what’s today’s agenda?”


Suddenly my wife’s cell phone rings. It’s my son Jacob, she says. He wants us to come for dinner at his new place. His mother-in-law just came in from Florida to attend to some business in NY and she wants us to have dinner together.


“There’s the answer to your question.”


It’s no potluck dinner but we’ll be bringing in some adobo and lumpia shanghai.


There is something in the old world that is worth carrying over and dinner conversations are the best venues to convey them.


Recharging must be done on a regular basis, so in a couple of weeks we are going to Ithaca Falls, a good four-hour drive from my place. This time around, we are packing up the essential things to carry for a hotel stay– disposable bed sheets and pillow cases, disposable toilet seat covers, Lysol, disinfectant wipes, sanitizers, etc. Never in my dreams did I ever expect to carry these many items for a one-night hotel stay.


With all the problems we are facing today -- from worsening floods to droughts and heat waves and wars -- isn’t it time we pause and reflect to ask ourselves if there is a different way of looking at the world and at ourselves? What is that knowledge? Is it still available? Does my generation have it, or even a bit of it? I think so. Here’s why.


Next month it will be September again, the month of Our Beloved Lady of Peñafrancia. I am sure there will be festivities for us Bicolano exiles via Zoom and limited church services. This time, however, I will be celebrating the feast at home. This tender devotion to Ina is forever imprinted in our hearts no matter where we are, no matter what is happening in the world.


September in Naga brings back many memories of childhood. It meant flying our kites in the blue skies, playing “darakupan” until the sun sank in the coconut trees, sitting idly in the glade, the silence broken only by the happy screams of children, and a distant radio playing “The Green Leaves of Summer” by the Brothers Four.


We had no cell phones, no electronic devices back then. In the evenings, we’d sit along empty streets under a silver moon telling tall tales. To demonstrate his skill, our local braggart would stand to dribble an imaginary basketball and shoot at the crispy evening air, that way. It was a time when the word “virus” meant the cold virus and the word dengue did not even exist despite the mosquitoes.


The paragraphs above are the reasons why I think we have it, or even a bit of it. And we want to invite this generation to come to dinner and sit at table within our radar screen.


Meanwhile my wife has recently taken her gardening seriously. Our front yard is now brimming with plants blooming in clumps and flower pots. Soon, however, it will be fall again and it is time to bring her “annual flower plants” inside. The perennials will remain outside, but the “annuals” cannot survive winter. Taking this cue from them, we prepare our winter paraphernalia to keep ourselves and our pets warm during the long winter months.


It is amazing how the last days of summer flutter by like butterflies. Somehow the days never seem to last long enough. Hardly do we know it, they are almost over before we get the opportunity to savor the beauty of the day. I guess it is true for all the good things in life. I almost always rue the day when summer’s leaves begin to fall. It reminds me of a line in Shakespeare’s famous Sonnet 18:


“And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”


Above all, if there is anything my generation could carry over to the present, it is the culture of hope. For mine was a hope-filled generation.


Hope-filled persons are hopeful, even when they are alone, because hope is their nature. Persons of despair are desperate even when they alone, for that is their nature. Look at hateful persons, for example, when they are alone and you will feel their anger even though they may not be showing their anger to anyone in particular. Their whole existence simply overflows with hate. On the other hand, if you see hopeful persons, you can feel them brimming over with hope even when they are alone.


Consider the lavender fields we visited recently. If they bloomed even in the desert they will spread their fragrance whether or not there is anyone there to appreciate them. To be lavender is their nature. No wonder they are the most famous form of aromatherapy. Lavender fields forever.


And so it is with the aroma of hope. There is no need to talk. The presence of one filled with hope is invigorating and inspiring, and that presence is a blessing to everyone. For hope cannot be taught but caught. Supersaturated with hope, a person becomes a healing presence.


Meanwhile, next month will be the start of the “ber “ months, and I am already looking forward to the Holy Birth, quite early you might say, but in this pandemic, and in my opinion that the best Christian story is the Holy Crib and the best of Christian festivities is the Midnight Mass, the “ber” months give me hope. With all my faith and hope and prayers, I fervently wish the human race would then have found something to completely wipe out this pandemic. For after all, in my book, the dark night is not the last word. In the words of the 17th century writer Thomas Fuller, the night is darkest just before the dawn.


“What time is it?” It’s my turn to ask my wife, the sunlight streaming through our window.


“The adobo is done, Manny. Your turn to fry the lumpia shanghai. Have you forgotten we’re going somewhere?”