Enjoy summer while it's here; fall's on the way

A highlight of summer was riding in a 1936 Packard. She's hoping for a repeat drive in October.

The season peaked for me as I rode in the rumble seat of a 1936 Packard convertible under July's full buck moon amid acres of ripening Illinois field corn.

Mark, the Packard's proud owner, a friend who, like us, spends time in a second home in New Harmony, Ind., had suggested an evening drive when he found us also in town. Charlie and I suggested a dining venue across the river, and it was en route home that it hit me: Summer can't get deeper than this, or more Midwestern, I thought, as we thrummed along the rural roads, wind whipping, feeling delightfully time-warped in the gleaming old vehicle.

As we crossed the humped steel bridge over the broad Wabash River back into New Harmony, it was as if a cup began to tip ever so slightly. It seemed high deep summer at the bridge's crest, then there was a slight shift to something else – not fall, but pointing that way – as we purred into town.

I am perhaps oversensitive to such balancing acts. I have no idea what I'd do without the dynamic equilibrium that seasons and their shifts impart to me. Charlie understands this without words, but Mark and I waxed eloquently on the topic of deep summer and what it signifies. Over meals of burritos and enchiladas (not precisely Midwestern but corn-based, after all), we agreed that it has to do with the quiet, muffled look of a barn and surrounding fields under a sizzling noon sun, the notched-down tenor of bird song – no longer frenetic with the business of mating and breeding – the perceptible shortening of days, and something intangible that suddenly tells you this is it: summer at its utmost.

Over the following days Charlie and I made the most of this summer's peak time – the next evening's "prime time" viewing hours found us tuned into a favorite old "show," the delicate, yet oh, so rapid opening of evening primroses behind our brick cottage. The next afternoon – the hottest of the season to date – we waded for several hours through the blackberry thickets of an abandoned field, collecting three gallons of the wild fruit. By that time I was thinking fondly of fall.

As Mark put it, things will start to look autumnlike soon enough. The green foliage will tighten a bit. A few leaves will begin to drift onto our lawns and drives. It will be dark before we want to relinquish our hold on the day's light. And then, one day, we'll be ready to let go and move on.

I have my sights set for a ride in the Packard among the pumpkins.

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