For most of my life, August was Summer’s eleventh hour.
August is the sun. It is aureate light upon the garden floor illuminating the softened, verdant grass. I walk barefoot across the sward and think of home, of my gossamer curtains billowing in the gentle wind, my mother’s twinkling eyes as we sit on the balcony and watch the bougainvillea, my grandmother’s face as mango pulp stains her hands. In these memories I am safe; I exist in a glass house where no harm can touch me. For most of my life, August was Summer’s eleventh hour. Come September and October, the chill will creep in and force the sun to hide behind canopies of dark, the only light filtering through in dapples on frosted mud.
Now, we sit on the rocks of Stargazer Lawn in Barangaroo Reserve and look at the water. It is wine-dark, the setting sun painting the sea in shades of honey and crimson. The quiet settles around us like a blanket on a cold night. There is nothing to say, so we rest heads on heads and trace the contours of palm lines. This is familiar, I think, but not in a way where it has happened before. The boulders scrape against my fingertips as I draw circles on them, so I choose to take my art to the safety of his skin.
The worst of the Winter is behind us. It was odd for me to envision June and July as months that require extra blankets and steaming spiced apple tea, but that was merely my body’s loyalty to my Northern Hemisphere upbringing. I spend my days out in the sun; I walk to Circular Quay, I wander through Wendy’s Secret Garden and pose in front of purple flowers I cannot name, I sit on the docks near the water and sip iced matcha. So far, my health app tells me I’ve taken more steps in August than I have any other month in the year. Most of them have been taking me to watch the sun set over the sea.
Odes are my favourite genre of poetry because of their delicate descriptions of nature, their emphasis on the romantic, and my love for dedications. When I first conceived of this piece, I wanted to write an ode to August, in proper form and meter. I wanted to venerate August without having to confess anything. I spent days, weeks, researching the genre and the perfect poetic paradigm.
In her 2004 poem Celestial Music, Louise Glück writes, “the love of form is a love of endings.” But I’ve never liked to talk about endings. My first thought is always, why can’t it just be this, here, forever? When I first heard people talk about immortality, I thought they wanted to freeze at that specific point in time. I wanted to capture that in my writing — a romanticised version of August, a snapshot of all that is wonderful. Nothing more, nothing less.
Most poems about Spring emphasise revival and fresh beginnings; as the flowers start to bloom, hope of something new buds. But in A Self-Portrait in Letters, Anne Sexton writes, “I am in pain because the day is ending and I am never healing.” I think of this quote every Spring and reflect on my growth, which I have closely associated with learning to trust people and learning how to be vulnerable. In All About Love, bell hooks writes, “rarely, if ever, are any of us healed in isolation.” It is an act of communion, but I’ve never been good at being at the mercy of others.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but this March is the first time I’ve considered happier places to end my stories. It was difficult to accept that being happy was more poetic than being sad when there was so much more to pull from misery.
But happiness has its own quiet beauty to it; a beauty of comfort, peace and sweet dreams. In the fleeting sun of August, I write about the papaya-scented candle on my bedside table and how it’s the same shade as the pumpkin, sweet potato, and carrot soup my friend is experimenting with. I spend hundreds of words describing raspberry slushies and secret garden benches. I was scared of leaving parts of myself in places, in my writing, with people I’ve come to love; but perhaps this is part of the process of seeding love, leaving parts of you to blossom into something great.
As a result, I am a patchwork of everyone I’ve loved; I see my mother when I pray, and my father when I pick out something to eat. I cannot remember if my favourite television shows and books are such because they remind me of myself, or of the friends who introduced me to them. I dot my ‘i’s with circles because the girl who sat next to me in the seventh grade did the same, and I refuse to eat tomatoes some days out of solidarity with my best friend who is allergic.
I write myself a letter every August, the week before my birthday; and it is not to be opened until the following year. It is a secret tradition, one I’ve had since I was fourteen. I see it as a kind of reckoning, a promise to be better. Recently, I went back and looked at the letters I wrote when I was younger and harsher. They brimmed with bitterness and despair, and I hurt to think of a version of myself so insistent on inflicting pain.
There is no critical thinking in this year’s letter, no veiled attacks I expected myself to forget with time. It is filled with descriptive writing, with detailed accounts of little blue tea boxes, mornings spent writing in the company of silence, and walks across the bridge to Lavender Bay.
In 1880, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “I see the sun, and if I don’t see the sun, I know it is there. And there’s a whole life in that, in knowing that the sun is there.” For me, the sun is a reminder of the times I spent looking at the clouds, of the photos where she blinds me, and the relief I feel when I find a little patch to sit in. The sky is shrouded in darkness as I finish writing this, but the light from the full moon assures me of my company.