rilkean heart


In August, you enter what Douglas Adams called the “long, dark teatime of the soul,” that languid patch of nothingness that fosters a curious mix of complacency and anxiety. In Chapel Hill, the days were endless and deliriously hot; we made sure not to spend too much time by ourselves, lest the inner demons contribute to the rot that had already desiccated our self-esteem.

I think I will die in August. I feel like I foresaw it as a young kid, wandering around the streets of Cedar Rapids on my bike, the sun making yellow patterns in the bushes as it threatened to set earlier each day. I saw some sort of existential maw open up, something quiet, still and hazy let me know there would be a day, perhaps 90 years from then, when I would be looking at an August day as my last.

You must keep moving. Make it to September each year, and you might be okay. Three years ago, in 2001, Tessa and I both remarked that the city was behaving strangely, as if something wasn’t quite right. We saw Alex and Wendi at a store in midtown and all of us remarked that the mood was weird, very still, as if the town was holding its breath. We thought it might have something to do with the internet bubble bursting so terribly, but a few days later some planes hitting the towers downtown answered questions we didn’t know we asked.

I have cleaned out the barn, both literally and metaphysically. It took all day, but now you can see the pool table, and the adornments from last year’s wedding look awesome again. I am throwing away all of my socks and half of my boxer shorts. I am finishing my next screenplay. I have to un-tether myself from what August wants to do to me.

0 thoughts on “rilkean heart

  1. Mom

    August? For me, it’s September. Or four o’clock in the afternoon. There is something about the setting sun, the setting-in of autumn that is unbearably sad. I always have my nervous breakdowns in September, and almost always in the afternoon.
    That golden light as the day or the summer wanes gets me every time. I have a problem with October, too, but that’s because of Halloween. And Halloween never bothered me until I taught school. You can’t celebrate those Religio/Pagan holidays any more, so maybe it would be OK now, but there was always something about making it past the candy-rush rugrats in Batman costumes time and into November that always made sigh with relief.
    On the other hand, November is not so hot either, because I know that December is coming, and since about 1985 I’ve had that problem with Christmas. It’s gotten better in the past few years, but…
    Oh, and January… but don’t get me started.
    Actually, this was a very evocative and lovely, if bittersweet, blog entry, Ian.
    So I’ll go away now and enjoy what’s left of a pretty good month.

  2. Alan

    It is a sad thing when you realize there are people who are actually not Canadian, who do not experience the joys of Boxing Day or Easter Monday – those extra days of signifying nothing. The August civic holiday. People who think the final chord of “Day in the Life” was due to forgetting to get on with it. August is the payback, when the chores are done, lawn mown, when you can be idle and happy. Neither planting or full harvest time. Time for the summer fair when the pie is made already and corn needs only throwing into the boil. August is, yes, I’ll have another beer, thanks. After the game but not yet time to go home.
    It is not yet autumn – there’ll be plenty of time for that: You can see sweater weather coming but don’t have to get them down out of storage yet.

  3. oliver

    Maybe you should turn off the comment option when you’re being Rilke, Ian. What people say about talking during sex probably applies just as much to talking during romantic poetry. I might as well comment while here though that Rilke does it better: Maybe because he’s German and his words are bigger. I can’t really explain it.

  4. Andy

    This will show what a true simpleton I am, but I think August sucks because it (lumped in with July) is the non-sports season. Yeah, I know about baseball, but any season that contains 160 games has a huge stretch of meaningless games. By the end of August, I am usually coming out a funk because football season is about to begin which means that basketball season is right around the corner. The first Saturday in September brings the first college football kickoff and I am good to go until the NBA finals in June.
    Speaking of UNC basketball, we picked up a huge basketball commitment yesterday. Now we just need to make sure he doesn’t go pro…

  5. CL

    The beginning of September always instills in me that back-to-school anything-can-happen feeling, even though I’m really not going back to school and not much is going to change. But I BELIEVE it will, and that’s why I need to live in a place where the seasons change and I can get back those exciting feelings of thinking maybe THIS year the person I have a crush on at school will notice me, or maybe this year I’ll do better than ever before. Even if it’s irrational, I love that feeling.
    Summer brings such promise when it comes, but the last two weeks of summer (which, for anyone raised on the school calendar, are pretty much the last two weeks of August) can be a bit tiresome. It’s too hot. The sun doesn’t know when to leave. It should get out of the way and let in the cool temps and changing leaves.

  6. eric g.

    Have you read “The Stones of Summer?” It’s about this fatalistic little boy in the thinly-disguised town of Rapids Cedar, Iowa who sees signs of impending gloom in things like setting suns…anyway, your image of setting suns in 1970s Iowa foreshadowing an August death put me in the strange mindset that that book also inspired.
    The gloom of the ever-shortening days reminds me of the awful sense of foreboding I used to feel on Sunday evening as another week of school stretched in front of me. The harbinger of the coming week was the opening credits of “The Wonderful World of Disney,” which I cannot to this day see without a queasiness in my stomach. This exact image was used to wonderful effect in “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt. She must’ve felt the same thing.


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