Five stages of grief: Summer 2013

From the moment my family returned from an August vacation we booked long before anyone could’ve known Juneau would experience its best August in decades, this much was clear: summer 2013 was dead and while we were gone, we’d missed its glorious end.


Normally, I’m optimistic when it comes to weather. Ask my wife; it drives her crazy. I spent every day last summer confident that summer weather, was, in fact coming — well into October, even as snow fell on Halloween. This summer, I just get the feeling this is for summer is over. It burned bright and then it was gone, as if too beautiful for this world, like Crystal Pepsi or 2 Live Crew.

It’s okay, though, after only a few days resuming the familiar schedule of school, extra-curricular activities and board meetings (the adult equivalent of extra-curricular activities), I’ve come to accept it. We’ve reached the end of summer, no matter how many tiki torches I light or unbuttoned guayaberas I wear.

Of course, acceptance, according to the Kubler-Ross model, commonly known as the “Five Stages of Grief,” is the final stage for someone faced with impending death, the others being denial, anger, bargaining and depression. Yes! I’ve made it to the final stage of grieving the death of summer, as all Alaskans must learn to do, once a year right around this time. And it only took me seven summers! See, my mom always said I was advanced.

Let’s trace the path:

1. Denial: Summer isn’t dead. Not by a long shot! It’s only August. Okay, third week of August, but still more than a week until Labor Day — eight days left to wear those white shoes. That’s an eternity. And look over there: still a stand or two of fireweed clinging to life, like the last proud shreds of a balding man’s electric pink comb-over. Those alders, right outside my window? Their leaves aren’t starting to change. Not at all. It’s just been dry here… the last five minutes. By the way, spare me the “yep, summer’s over, rain’s starting to come.” It rains every season here. That’s part of Juneau’s curse. I mean charm. Also, I’m wearing shorts. True, I also wear shorts every season here, but now it’s actually out of comfort as opposed to some thigh chapping display of stoicism. What travel plans for Christmas? I haven’t made any travel plans for Christmas. Okay, so I outlined dates. And booked reservations. But I’m still just “holding” those reservations. I’ve got 24 hours to cancel, change or pay for those reservations, so there, summer still alive and kicking. Oh, and the tanzanite stores don’t close for a whole month. As long as you can buy tanzanite, summer isn’t dead.

2. Anger: Great, just great—what am I going to do with all this sunscreen, now? And how about that inflatable kiddie pool? Gaw! Just when I was starting to get used to not having pee-pee in the hot tub (although, a little pee-pee is a small price to pay for an outdoor activity on a cold, rainy weekend, but still, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to have a hot tub without pee-pee in it!). Dagnabbit! I’m so mad I’m cussing like a grizzled 1890s prospector. My peas haven’t even come in yet, consarnit! What am I supposed to put in my Bloody Marys now instead my own homegrown pickled pea pods? Store-bought celery, like some kind of “outsider?” Bad enough I’ll be stocking my freezer with retail halibut. It’s not like I wanted to send my kids to college. And home heating oil costs how much a gallon? I’ll be hornswoggled!!!!

3. Bargaining: Tell you what? Just give me one more unbroken week of sunny goodness — just long enough to catch some coho, finish roofing and siding my trash shed, level my yard, hike the ridge, take the kayak out, spend a night at a forest service cabin, have a bonfire, wash the windows, build my kids a tree house and actually go mountain biking after spending $100 tuning it up this past May before promptly parking it in the garage, rode soft and put away dry. I promise I really will do all those things, instead of spending the whole time sitting on my deck drinking coffee, switching to beer. Please? Of course, I’m open to negotiation. At the very least, a couple days of sun-drenched goodness, enough to let me clean up all the junk from my yard I promised to dispose of this summer (and last summer, and the summer before that) without having to swaddle myself in performance-fleece and rubber. I also wouldn’t say no to a sack of blueberries. I’ll even call them by their proper name — mountain huckleberries — if that’ll make any difference. Blueberry syrup — I mean, “mountain huckleberry” syrup — is a key ingredient in my salmon marinade. Not that I have any salmon.

4. Depression: If you call October shoulder season, then surely August is the armpit of the year. It makes me think of that Simon and Garfunkel song, “April Come She Will,” and its line: “August, die she must. Autumn winds blow chilly and cold.” Yeah, they do. And you know what Simon and Garfunkel say about September: “September, remember, a love once new has now grown old.” Really looking forward to that. And all this back-to-school stuff really bums me out, too, even though I haven’t been a student since early last decade, unless you count that one attempt at learning Chinese with Rosetta Stone.

5. Acceptance: Okay, summer’s done. There, I said it. Fall’s here and winter’s coming, and that’s okay. There’ll be other, indoor projects to not accomplish, well-intentioned money to spend on ultimately unused equipment and, of course, ski lodge chicken fingers to eat. May as well pay for those Christmastime airline reservations, I guess. Now, where the heck’s my credit card, dadburnit?!

• Slack Tide appears every other Sunday in Neighbors. Geoff Kirsch will appear on the spoken word stage as part of the Second Annual Friends of Fourth & Gold Spectacular, Sept. 7 at McPhetres Hall (doors open at 6:30 pm; performances begin at 7).


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