I once had a friend who loved a particular piece of music so much that while it was playing he had to stop the song and start it over from the beginning. “I can’t wait until it’s over so I can begin it again,” he said.
In northern new England the longing for summer is like that. This is not only because the first few days of summer are dizzying with their ridiculous potential. It’s also because the last few weeks of summer are haunted by the sense of impending loss. “August is the Sunday of summer,” my friend Joe Reisert said to me recently. As the parent of a daughter heading off for her first year of college, Joe has particularly good reasons to feel mortal right about now. But a sense of wistfulness is not unique to empty nesters. If July is summer’s wild Saturday night, August is the somber morning after, a moment when all at once you look up and notice that the days are growing shorter again (over two and a half hours less daylight than on the day of the equinox in June) and we are reminded of the thing we’d tried so hard to forget: none of this will last.
And so I have given a lot of thought in recent weeks about how to make summer last forever — both to create memories that will warm me in the frozen months, as well as inventing a method to actually make time pass more slowly. Not all of these will work equally well for everybody, but they are the ones that work for me.
First: get off the internet. It is a fair guess that nothing that comes to you with its own comments section will result in time well spent. Whenever I log into Facebook, I can only think of Count Rugen in the Princess Bride, torturing Westley the Farm Boy. “There. I’ve just sucked a year from your life. How does it feel?”
I cannot tell you how many times I have sat down at my desk “just to check one little thing” only to find that two hours have gone by in a twinkling, hours I will never get back no matter how funny that dog video was. My advice is, if you want your days to last forever, throw your devices away. Summer will be gone before you know it. That video of the dog eating with a fork and knife will be right there where you left it when you come back this autumn.
Second, bake a pie. Seriously. You’re going to want to use berries picked within the last few days, preferably by you. And while strawberry and raspberry season is mostly done by now, blueberries are juicy and succulent and waiting. I made a raspberry pie with my son Zach last summer, and we still talk about it. How sweet it was; how hot the crust and filling as we scarfed it down right out of the tin. You’re going to want some vanilla ice cream to go with that, too.
Third, read Proust. Nothing makes one less likely to lose time than In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s work is less like reading a novel and more like listening to music, with its long, circuitous sentences curling languorously around the heart. It is impossible to read Proust swiftly, and often, even after reading him slowly, it’s necessary to go back and read each sentence a second time. Try speeding through this: “When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”
Fourth, go fishing. I live on a lake that once flourished with landlocked salmon, most of which have now been consumed by the relentlessly ravenous Northern pike, introduced by some clever soul into the lake a decade or so ago and which have now taken over everything. In the same way, my younger self, bearing lures with names like Hulapoppers and Jelly-grubs, has been consumed by this older one, a woman who often fishes without any bait at all. I was well over fifty before I realized that the part of fishing I like the least is the actual catching of fish, with the piteous pulsing of the beet-purple gills and the hooks impaled through a Largemouth’s large mouth. The good part is sitting there in the morning, mist rising off the water, with a thermos of coffee in hand. Time passes slowly, as Dylan once noted, when you’re lost in a dream.
Fifth, go to a minor league baseball game. In Maine we have the Portland Sea Dogs, currently last in their division, thirty-one games behind the first- place Reading Fighting Phils. But an afternoon at Hadlock Field is pretty close to heaven, the standings notwithstanding. In addition to the game, there’s Shipyard Export Ale on tap, Shain’s Sea Dog Biscuit (an ice cream sandwich) and haddock filet sandwiches. It was George Carlin who most succinctly summed up the timelessness of baseball: “Baseball has no time limit. We don’t know when it’s going to end. There might even be extra innings.”
Sixth, make pizza. I use store-bought dough and canned sauce and throw all my effort into the toppings. My favorite two are 1) Maine Green: local mushrooms and sausages from our farm share, served with pesto from the farmers market; and 2) Down East: red sauce and Parmesan and the meat of a whole shelled lobster, with chopped fresh basil leaves thrown on just before serving. Nothing glues you to the present like cheese.
Finally — and forgive me for this — tell people that you love them. This one doesn’t actually slow down time, of course; when I remind my college-age sons of the love I bear for them, the moment is guaranteed to be awkward, and over swiftly — as far as they’re concerned, the swifter the better. But I know in the coming winter months, it’s this that I’ll return to.
For just that moment, I will remember the days of summer, spent with my wife Deedie, and my sons Zach and Sean, eating pie, watching baseball, fishing for nothing, making pizzas. And time will slow. As Proust himself noted, “Love is space and time, measured by the heart.”