Well it’s August! Steady 100 degrees and sun. Bring it on. I come from the land of the ice and snow and this is my price for never having to shovel my way into a frozen car with icicles from my hair and shrinkage you wouldn’t believe, just to slide my way down the street again to somewhere I really didn’t want to go to in the first place. And that was just Monday. No. No, no no, no, no. I’ll sweat ‘em off in the south, thank you.
August and I have an interesting relationship. Life has been chapters and when the “Back to the land” chapter happened for real a couple of decades ago, August was my trial by fire. “Yeah? You wanna live simply? You wanna build your life from the ground up? You wanna prove something? You’d rather blaze a trail than fall in? Have at it, my man. Oh by the way… it’s gonna hit 114. August is gonna average 99. AVERAGE. Like including what it goes down to overnight. You and your little van and that pawn shop chainsaw, your little no-skill-having suburban ass belongs to the earth. You will try but I will decide. You will learn but I will not yield to you. When you struggle, I might show you something to give you hope but I am not – NOT – going to comfort your body. Not one single bit. Because if I do, you ain’t gon’ make it out here, son. Your heart may be broken and your will may not be focused, but you stepped into my world, and it’s my game now. Get after it.” I will hurt but I will not complain. I will be left no choices but I will be grateful. I will do it or it will not get done. Self-empowerment boot camp. Rewiring the head. The honing of the blade. That was my first August on the land.
Four years later Birdsong the company was launched and I promised myself August off and a month break over the Holidays. Though steadily managing some time off in December and January, I think I’ve only taken two Augi in 15 years, and maybe one was a month. I’m hard wired to keep going. I don’t like loose ends or to be behind. It kills me to have people waiting on my most-of-the-way when I offered ALL of the way. That’s Sweaty Scott the wildman from the woods training. He’s alive and well in me. I can’t let him drive anymore, he’s a madman and he did his service – but he is consigliere around here and those years remade me. Without (especially) THAT August, if I was the same guy I was in my 20s, I would’ve missed the mark every time on what would have, should have, could have been Birdsong and anything else that has happened, gotten after, completed, or built upon in the chapters that followed it.
In fact, looking back that far, the very turning point in my 20s was an August in a van out on Interstate 35. It was hot but I was young and free. There was no “Vanlife” movement – this was what my decisions had left me, and at the time it was my best choice. I read Thoreau and wrote and knew deep inside this was a stop on my way UP, on my way OUT. So in that it was sanctified and I suffered in gratitude and learned to cope and not be bothered by things that will pass and shouldn’t shake me up. Augusts have shaped my life with their tests and their intensity. To make something big happen is rarely easy. To make something big happen in extreme conditions, you have to develop a certain strength of devotion, an irrevocable pact with yourself of whatever size is necessary to see this through to what it turns into. To throw yourself at it and see what YOU turn into. Or what you are and didn’t know. Those spirit muscles you never knew you had. The will to live you never physically tasted before. The sheer balls or oves you never knew you had to stand and look at the mountain and go, “Screw you! That’s not a mountain it just looks that way from down here, this is ceremony – gimme that shovel. I’m gonna move what I can’t climb, and I’d rather die on my way up than sitting here making wishes.”
August. A season of late summer, a life in late summer. Though every day’s not a climb anymore, though I’m somewhat mellowed and the woods a bit tamed, there is still plenty to do… and lots of promises I intend to keep. And I’m sure challenges to come. So I’m going to take a few days here and there this month, maybe knock off early a bit, but those of you whose builds are being worked on – I work for you and the hours I DO put in this month will be all-in, head down, and balls out. With the doors open, the sun shining in the windows like a temple, and the sacred sounds of music and tools working wood in the air. 90, 100, 110. I don’t care. There’s no difference to me. You do it or you don’t. Blooming in August will do that to you. This is ceremony - gimme that router.
Listening to: KRTU 91.7 jazz; Springsteen’s autobiography audiobook; Donovan’s Greatest Hits; reggae compilation CDs.