Tuesday, May 28, 2013

`The Carnival of the Year Commencing'

Like a million others, my kids each morning announce the countdown to summer vacation. Eight days of school remain. Some rituals are eternal. Neither hates school, nor did I, but summer signifies something else, more than mere freedom, which, if you asked them, would be their ten- and twelve-year-old explanations. No, summer promises a euphoric sense of possibility, of openness and potential. You can do anything in the summer, celebrate whatever you want. We built forts, had apple fights, picked blackberries, played army, burned model airplanes and threw rocks at paper wasp nests. Swimming, fishing, shooting pellet and BB guns, comic books and watermelon. All for the sake of being alive and slowly, unknowingly shedding the ways of childhood. Thoreau puts it memorably in his journal one-hundred sixty years ago today, on May 28, 1853: 

“To Lupine Hill by boat. The carnival of the year commencing— a warm, moist, hazy air, the water already smooth and uncommonly high, the river overflowing, and yellow lilies all drowned, their stems not long enough to reach the surface. I see the boat-club, or three or four in pink shirts, rowing at a distance... Already the ringing croak of a toad begins to be heard here and there along the river, and the troonk of a bullfrog from time to time.”

Pink shirts in Concord, Mass., in 1853.

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