Overnight, Texas soil went from saturated to cracked. Grass that grew too quickly to keep mowed in May is brittle gold. Leaves and pecans fall early. And house dogs wait until eight at night to walk their owners. Even then it’s ninety degrees.
It’s nothing new. Every late July the soil cracks, the trees stress, the gardens and flowers planted with good intentions in early spring wither. Locusts rattle from the post oaks under an endlessly sunny sky. Country folk watch for any chance of a cloud and conversations end with, “Let it rain.”
It’s an endless routine. The same seasons and patterns. The same fears and problems. Drought followed by flood. Selling cows and restocking. Praying for rain that doesn’t come until harvest. The same conversations year after year. “I’ve lived in this county for sixty years, and I don’t remember it ever this dry.”
There’s never a July or August that I don’t wish I lived somewhere else. Somewhere cooler. Somewhere cloudier. Somewhere wetter. September gives me hope. We pretend it will cool off in October because that’s what it’s supposed to do. And maybe it will in November.
I’ve lived through this cycle for forty-four years. And I’ve worked in the same job for sixteen. A job as routine and unchanging as the seasons. As steady, safe, and secure as any job can be. And as boring.
We work eight hours and come home to busy spouses and busy kids on their way to work or practice or social events, and we do what we did yesterday and the day before and the day before. Some laundry or dishes or a small repair or Ben needs air in his bicycle tire or Lily needs a ride to gymnastics. I was tired of mowing last month, but I miss it this month.
My wife has good friends. They are planning their annual fall hiking trip now. For several years, I’ve told her this is the year that I’ll make friends and do things. Maybe I’ll hike at Yosemite. But another year goes by, and the only things I’ve managed to do beyond what is required are play with my weights and try to write a few stories about the adventures I used to have.
I’ve grown increasingly discontent since I turned forty. I want to do something but don’t know what it is. Start a business. Write a book. Return to my former studious ways. Hike the Appalachian trail. Move to Iceland. Join the military. (I realize I’m too old.) Travel to Spain for the running of the bulls. Run with the bulls. Steal the hearts of the Spanish ladies.
Off and on throughout my life I’ve felt this longing for something. A place I’ve never been, or an experience I’ve never had. As I get older, the longing gets stronger. At some level I realize my time is getting shorter. My time to live and experience more of the world than my dry and withered corner before I wither and am buried and forgotten in my dry and withered corner where the dandelions will grow and bloom and die and the ground will crack above me.
Discontent is the cousin of loneliness, which I wrote about last year. In general, men are not as good at meaningful relationships and friendships as women are. Over the last year I made three attempts to make new friends. All good guys whom I have things in common with, but none of us have the time or energy. The friendships withered and died like the petunias we plant with such hope in April.
Spring turns to summer. Rain turns to drought. Meadows turn to chaff. Petunias die. But each spring, with new hope, we plant them and fertilize them and water them and promise that this year we will be more diligent. We don’t give up. This will be the year of harvest—whether tomatoes or friends or new adventures. Where there’s life, there are possibilities. Dreaded August is here, but it brings the promise of September. And September gives me hope.