A shark or two to deal with

By David Grima | Sep 04, 2014

One of the main plot points in the movie “Jaws” is that the wretched shark shows up to snack on people from the little coastal town just as the summer tourist season is beginning. Behind this dramatic position lies the obvious fact that summer has a beginning and an end, and furthermore that summer is an important time for any town where summer is part of what helps the town survive through winter.

For me the summer seemed to start a very long time ago. Almost everyone I know who talks about summer claims it has once again gone by swifter than an arrow. Part of the problem is that so many people have to work so hard in summer to make the money they need for the winter, that summer ends up being a busy and fraught time of year.

Everyone seems to have a shark or two to deal with, and it consumes their energy and attention until one day they see that summer had once more passed them by. And yet for myself this has not been the case this year, and I am so grateful for that.

As we have seen in the pages of the dear old Courier, many people have spent their summer anxiously worrying about dogs in the park, or the cost of trash disposal, the ruinous condition of Extremely Old County Road, or whether the tables at the new takeout stand at Kalers Corner are level enough, or whether the people who live at Coopers Beach (said to be in Owls Head) will ever be allowed to go to the beach again, or whether the new art gallery on Winter Street will be more or less pleasant than the building it will replace, or whether we are cruel to lobsters in Rockland, or whether we will ever find a new school superintendent or city manager, or wondering just when St. George will pull out of the United Nations and the school district, or why Reade Brower has it in for brussels sprouts. As you can see, for some people it has been a long and vexing kind of summer.

My summer began when I read Arthur Ransome’s novel “Swallows and Amazons” for the first time in decades, and by watching Wes Anderson’s movie “Moonrise Kingdom." They were both mere coincidences, but they set the stage for a reconsideration of summer as a time when, if you are going to live on an island in the middle of a lake and play pirates and sailors, or if you are going to run off with the girl you love and camp in the modest wilderness at the other end of town, then summer might be the best time of year to do it.

Not that I did either of these things. Far too strenuous. Instead I decided to reorganize my life, to insert a little peace, to add a few extra genes to the DNA chain of summer. I decided to take as many Mondays off work as possible between June and now, and by that simple action was able to increase my free time by 50 percent. I know many readers will be frankly astounded to learn that I work for a living, assuming with absolutely no good reason that just because I live up here in the east concrete tower at the foot of Mechanic Street, that I live a life of ease and splendid uninterrupted freedom. I have tried many times to assure you it is not so, that my life is often quite the opposite. But many insist in thinking I am some kind of lotus eater.

Nevertheless, by adding a third day to each weekend I have indeed at least glimpsed the lotus. And speaking of genes, I seem to lack the standard Yankee Puritan quality that might have otherwise taken over my extra day each week and filled it with petty tasks, arbitrary accomplishments, and sundry achievements. I rejected all such false gods, in fact wasted each day as carelessly as I knew how, and so my summer had gone by at a generous and temperate pace more in keeping with my poor soul’s desire.

Even so, the end of summer is drawing slowly into sight like a steamship lazily climbing up over the horizon trailing a thin line of smoke from its stacks, although the ship is coming slowly, not rushing in upon me as it seems to be rushing upon so many others. After all, the tourist season here seems to last at least through Columbus Day, and has done for many years now. Yet already the streets are quieter, and there is that languorous, sleepy, late-summer atmosphere spreading all over the county.

Remember when we were children, and our parents either had visitors over or we were visiting somewhere ourselves, and as the evening drew on we slowly realized that our normal bedtime had already come and gone, yet all the grownups were still sitting around talking, showing no inclination to call an end to the long day, and in fact ignoring us as we tried to remain inconspicuous, hoping always to stretch out the evening just a little longer, even as we knew we were getting more tired as the precious extra free time was piled on, but we were just too busy playing to really notice? The weeks following Labor Day have always seemed to me like that.

Even the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse seem to have taken this summer better in their stride. There have been far fewer squawking fights or smoldering resentments this year, and I have appreciated that.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.

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