Sunday Morning ~ The Last Week of August
Khote-khote ngwanjira, palinga mtima ndi pomwepo. ~ Even though the road is bending and twisting, the heart will make you go where it wants to.
~ Chewa proverb
September 1, 2019
It seems to happen quickly once the last week of August comes. The days are dramatically shorter and evenings suddenly colder. There’s a poem called The Last Week of August, by Katie Vandamoer about the week of camp for exceptional children. I’ve been repeating a line of that poem to myself this week–– “And I’ve never felt so warm and happy in my life… the last week of August.” It was called EC week back then, I don’t know what the term would be now, maybe severely handicapped or mentally disabled? Not sure. But it was an exceptional week and filled with love, fun, and spirituality. It doesn’t exist anymore, I don’t think. It was imploding at the same time as my marriage ironically, the camp we were counselors at together at the place we got married. It was a Catholic boys camp and the last week of August, after the regular campers were finished, the diocese used the week to bring institutionalized children to experience nature and outdoor activities. It was pretty amazing actually, but in hindsight, I wonder how therapeutic. Routines were most definitely upended and I don’t know how healthy that was. Each camper had a counselor and though it was a fair amount of work during the week, it was also really fun to participate in wheelchair square dances, relay races, and talent shows. There were a million activities and games, boat rides, and arts and crafts. Lots of the counselors were special ed teachers or student teachers, so I believed there was some scientific basis for the activities, but those norms may have changed as well. I was just a nursing student and volunteer. Mass was celebrated every day and they were spiritual spectacles. The singing alone was enough to make someone convert. The masses were concelebrated by many priests, sometimes ten or more, and some wore their calling like a beacon, exuding that radiance. I was so grateful to be there.
When we were deciding where to get married we wanted a place were the ceremony and reception could be together. I really wanted to get married outside, but that’s not allowed in the Catholic church, a rule I still think is really dumb since it’s ok to have mass outside, just not a wedding. (Who thinks of these things?) So Camp Fatima worked. We loved the energy the place had, loved the pine chapel, and could have the reception just outside the door. And the setting was spectacular. A sweet camp down a long dirt road in a remote town on a lake. The pine chapel had swinging screen doors that slammed shut with the perfect sound of summer. The last week of August. We went to camp for the week and got married there two weeks later. Our friends stayed over night in the cabins and the party went on and on. The day was sunny and windy and the tent blew down during the ceremony. Guests had to pick up their table and move it into the rec hall and I saw nothing wrong with that! All our reception photos have big cardboard characters from Snow White and Peter Pan in them. Everyone’s feet were a dusty green from the floor which hadn’t been swept. I was deliriously happy and sure I would be forever. How utterly wonderful that felt.
I guess it depends on where I am during the last week of August, but this year I thought a lot about EC week. Maybe it’s because I’ve been away for a few years and the angle of the sun is triggering those memories. Maybe it was having Amelia with me and the memory of someone being so dependent on me for the week, or the arts and crafts, or the days at the beach that were just on the verge of being too cold. Not sure, but it was hanging there all week.
The air has that fall hint–– still warm but colored just a little differently. A week where fun, responsibility, and respect for human dignity was infused with so much love. And a belief in God seemed to make anything at all possible.
The last week of August always had the possibility of an exciting new chapter and I never quite understood the sadness some people had of letting go of summer. But today, as much as I’m looking forward to having some time to myself again, I feel that sadness of saying goodbye to this summer. I look at it differently now having had someone here for such a long stretch and knowing she’ll have an association with me and this season. It’s special. I realize how lucky I am to live in this beautiful place. She tells me she’s looking forward to going back to school and seeing her friends. She said she’ll miss me and I told her I’ll miss her too. I became a little worried about saying goodbye tomorrow. I want to honor the feeling of letting go of her, of the season, the warm nights, and the long days. Once I do that I’ll look for that sense of happy anticipation that always made me eager to run toward whatever is down the road.
Love to all,
The Last Week of August
by Katie Vandamoer
Well I came from a world that didn’t care
Tending to throw away lives;
But the sun shone, and the waters danced,
And the air was filled with love.
And I never felt so warm and happy in my life…
The last week in August.
Oh the time came, and went so fast,
And before I knew it, it had passed,
But on the way home, I realized
Just what it meant to live, and how it feels to love
How could I help but feel warm, and happy in my life…
The last week of August.