Our `Endless Summer'

AS a signal of summer's end, Labor Day is an artificial deadline. Or a false beginning. Something akin to the date marking a president's first 100 days.

Disregard, for the moment, that the official close of summer is on or about Sept. 21. Never mind that school begins after a summer break - a vestige of our agrarian past. Or that ``summer weather'' can stretch into the middle of October (for those of us in Northern climes).

Some of us tend to think instead of summer's experiences and of the continuity of their lessons.

Take the small disciplines of the campsite, where a not-too-obsessive tidiness still keeps the critters away from the cooler, a courteous respect for the next site makes for good neighbors, and flexibility, compromise, and - yes - scheduling ensure that each family member fully participates in the outing.

A hike may cause some to grumble to the point of tears about the steep trail; but the grumbling quickly yields to the splendor of the view and sweetness of the wild blueberries in the next morning's pancakes. Likewise the bike ride that, when enjoyed for each turn in the path, leaves some amazed at their mileage - distances that would have deterred them from mounting up had they known about them in the first place.

And what of the fears overcome: a reluctance to take swimming lessons, the freedom the lessons bring, and the sense of empowerment that grows from later building on those lessons with new-found poolside acquaintances?

Even the venerable barbeque needn't cool at summer's artificial end. While some think wistfully of the season's last cookout, others among us fire up the grill ankle deep in snow - in part to savor the forced slowdown that tending a grill imposes (yes, even a gas grill), in part to perpetuate the flavors of summer.

A frontal thundershower moved through recently after a string of 90-degree days. Personal energy levels seemed to rise along with the cool breeze that slipped through the screens. No doubt the seasonal gears are shifting.

But to many of us ``summer'' is something to be pocketed for further use, not relegated solely to the pages of the family photo album.

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