"Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December but the days grow short when you reach September..."
Those are the opening words of a song we used to sing in my day. Okay, when I was young. More than 50 years ago. As I typed the words, I noticed “May” and “December” in the same line and wondered if the songwriter was using what—again, in my day—was a famous cliché. We used to say if an old man—say in his 60s—was going out with a 16-year-old girl, we would say they were having a “May-December affair.” Now that sounds so old-fashioned, so obsolete.
But I remember when I was in my 40s, living in San Francisco, taking the train to work every morning, watching a perky old man, obviously retired so in his 60s, following a young 13-year-old girl in a school uniform. She came on the train later than us. His eyes would light up and I thought he looked like Little Red Riding Hood’s Big Bad Wolf. He would sneakily follow her. Looked like he didn’t want her to know how eager he was to maybe molest her. Never knew if he succeeded because at some point I had to turn left to get to work while she turned right. All I know is he kept following her. That must have begun in September. In the US, that’s when classes start.
I also remember what the locals called Indian Summer. The outstanding American writer Mark Twain once said, “The worst winter I ever had was a summer in San Francisco.” He was right. Summer in the US happens in June, July, and August. In San Francisco, where the weather is cold for most Filipinos, the summer is unpredictable. Unlike New York where it hits the 90s in August, you never know what you will get in San Francisco. You always have to carry a thick sweater to keep you warm in the summer.
Except in the first week of September. That’s when Indian Summer comes. It gets intensely hot, a different kind of heat from the heat we have here but it makes you wear sleeveless cotton dresses. Sweat runs naughtily down your back. The days are long just before autumn. This wonderful hot weather lasts for only five days to a week or sometimes just a little more. But it feels so good. I used to love their Indian Summers. That was always the beauty of September for me.
Now what happens in my present September? I have rediscovered the pleasure of jigsaw puzzles. They make me focus exclusively on them, make me forget my problems and every other thing I have to do. Since September began I wake up at five in the morning and head for my computer. I have found free jigsaw puzzles and I make one. Generally, I finish it without cheating. It takes me about an hour more or less to do one. At the end of that, I feel laidback, refreshed. I can then make my rosaries.
I pick out the roses first. Then match some beads, contrast others. My mornings are spent very quietly because my husband, who generally wakes me up at four or five in the morning, has gone back to sleep and will stay asleep until 10 or 11.
I have always identified myself as a hobbyist or a craftswoman. I choose my colors. The night before I pray for guidance but when I work I let my fingers do the choosing. On a table beside where I work, I have Sarah Ban Breathnach’s little stand-up book called Hold That Thought. It’s a collection of thoughts that sort of help you think while you work. On Sept. 4, here’s what she said:
"Creation has three layers: the labor, the craft, and the elevation. She who works with only her hands is a laborer; she who works with her hands and her head is a craftswoman; she who works with her hands, her head, and her heart is an artist."
Thank you, Ms. Sarah Ban Breathnach! You called me an artist. From now on I will call myself an artist, too. I discovered Ms. Breathnach many years ago when I accidentally came across her book Simple Abundance while lazing through a bookstore. The book is a calendar and every day she writes something simple but deep. I made her part of my morning ritual.
There was a time, when I was single and alone, when I would begin my day writing three pages about anything after I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. After a while, you need new stimulation. That’s when I found Simple Abundance. Unfortunately it’s out of print now but I found my copy of Hold That Thought and use it as a guide, to make my day and my life a little more happy, a little more hopeful.
That’s my joy this September.