Berger’s Burg: Evil force behind shortening of summer must be caught

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If I wished to see a mountain or other scenery under the most favorable auspices, I would go to it in foul weather, so as to be there when it cleared up; we are then in the most suitable mood, and nature is most fresh and inspiring. There is no serenity so fair as that which is just established in a tearful eye. — Henry David Thoreau

I see a single red leaf hanging on a tree from my bedroom window. It is hanging there, surrounded by the green leaves blowing in the wind, in all its defiance. It reminds me of a proper lady who has just stepped into a formal reception on a torrid weekday night in summer. Everybody else is in a plain business suit. But this woman dares to wear a red velvet gown. She is stunning and everyone turns to look at her. She is overdressed in that brilliant red and it is not the season for velvet. My single red leaf, likewise, is overdressed for this occasion. Perhaps, in mid-September, it is to announce a final end to summer.

The goldenrod is yellow;/The corn is turning brown;/The trees in apple orchards./With fruit are bending down. ... By all these lovely tokens./September days are here,/With summer’s best of weather,/And Autumn’s best of cheer. — Helen Hunt Jackson

But who is to say the precise moment at which one season ends and another begins? Who says summer has to go away just because of the arrival of the vernal equinox or the tilt of the Earth on its axis? What exact day, hour, minute does it all begin to end? And when was that elusive moment when a culprit told summer to start changing?

As I look at that one red leaf in a tree of green, I notice something else. What happened to the mosquitoes? They were here just last week and now they are gone. Who told them to go? I never liked them, but as long as they annoyed me, departed and then found their way back into my house again, I knew summer was still here.

Flash! Snow White and Prince Charming just turned 72 and were located living and still loving in an adult community in Florida, where the summers are year-long.

And who turned on the street lights so early? Don’t they know that when the lights come on too soon the summer state-of-mind is marred? And this also affects the children playing in the park, who learn quickly that when the flicker of the street lights shine upon them it is time to go home. What happened to the summer days that went on and on, slowly fading into crickets and fireflies?

Three weeks ago, I visited a mall looking for short pants. “Sorry,” the salesman told me, “they’re all gone.” Could it be that they had decided the summer should end sooner? Maybe they are the ones who turned the street light on too soon. Continuing my walk through the mall, I sadly saw little boys lined up outside a barber shop to get their hair shorn. I cannot believe the boys would conspire against summer this way. Somebody else must have told them they needed to get their last summer haircut and, of course, that somebody must have taken them to the barbershop.

A word to the wise: When the harvest moon is at its fullest and brightest — which is just about now — beware the werewolves that may be lurking in your closet. To be safe, invite ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich for dinner.

Little girls were sitting in their summer shorts in swivel chairs at the hair salon getting their hair styled, but one little girl was not smiling. Did she know this means summer is over, too? And I noticed that honeydews and cantaloupes are no longer sweet. Who was it that took away their sugar? Possibly the same folks who made the mosquitoes fly away or the culprits who control the street lights.

When the leaves come fluttering down all dressed in gold and red, you would think the wind is playing nurse and putting them to bed.

I have a plan to defy these “thieves of seasons” who are erasing summer. Defiantly, I will go to the cupboard for an empty mustard jar. Why? Because mustard means summer. I will unscrew the lid, go outside and fill the jar with the last gasp of summer air. I will then label it “Summer of 2010.” And when the frigid winds begin to blow, I will hold it above my head and remember there was once a summer of 2010.

Here’s to Eve, the mother of our race. She hung some leaves over a very personal place. Here’s to Adam, the father of us all. Imagine his delight when the leaves began to fall.

Contact Alex Berger at

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