The calendar has shifted to August, the eighth month on the Gregorian calendar that was introduced to us by Pope Gregory XIII and came into general use in 1582. The word august, which derives from the Latin, can mean majestic dignity or grandeur. If you were born in August and have any interest in astrological signs you probably know that you are either a Leo, a lion full of energy (July 23 to August 22), or a Virgil (August 23 to September 22), who are described as logical, practical, and systematic in their approach to life, an earth sign.
In New York, August is a month of transition. My mind drifts to drawing. If you have had the experience of sketching from a live model you know there are long poses and short poses. During the long pose, usually twenty to thirty minutes, there is time to study the figure and contemplate the composition. Later as you begin to draw you can work on the shadows and add in highlights. When the session ends the model pulls on a robe, takes time to stretch, and returns, perhaps for another long pose, assuming a completely different position. The light has shifted and the way you compose the drawing is different. August is a long pose, at the end of the summer.
The Japanese call the transition from day to evening higure, which is neither darkness nor light, nor even a mixture of the two. It’s the space between fiction and reality. A few days ago, I sat on the veranda of a restored farmhouse nestled on the top of a hill in New Hampshire and watched the sky. The clouds were in constant motion and changed from white to pastel colors as the sun began to set. The trees, at the edge of the rolling hills so tall they almost touched the sky, were swaying. The birds were quiet, and the sound of the wind was whistling through the trees, as the sky became black, and the night descended.
August is nurturing, sensitive, and compassionate. There is nothing to celebrate that demands our attention. Self-effacing, like March, it is slipped in between July, with its many celebrations in the United States, fireworks, parades, and festivities. Labor Day, this year celebrated on Monday, September 6, signals the beginning of a new season. Universities open, schools are back in session, museums and galleries open major exhibitions they hope will attract attention.
This year is, of course, different. Many New Yorkers who left the City in March 2020 will just be returning. Mid-town Manhattan, still oddly quiet, will begin to emerge as offices reopen. There is a newly renovated branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, just a few blocks from the main branch on the corner of forty-second street. Broadway is not officially open until the fall so theaters lovers will finally have an opportunity to take in the live theater they have missed over the last year and a half. The city promises to come alive, while at the same time there is an anxiety one can feel in the air about the Delta variant and its potential to cause a spike in cases of the virus.
On June 22 a primary was held in New York City to identify two individuals, a Democrat and a Republican who will compete to become Mayor on November 2 and replace Mayor Bill de Blasio who cannot run because of he has exceeded his term limits. Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President prevailed in a crowded field of Democratic candidates and Curtis Silwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels and a talk radio host, is the Republican candidate. Because Democrats have a nearly 6-to-1 registration advantage over Republicans and there are twice as many independents as Republicans it is assumed that Eric Adams will become the next Mayor.
Whether Mr. Adams or Mr. Silwa become Mayor they face a daunting task. Public transportation issues, rising crime in certain sectors of the City, many unvaccinated individuals, and the need for more low-income houses. The same issues confronting urban centers across the globe. New Yorkers love their city, they are resilient, and the betting is New York will emerge as the vital, electric place it was before the pandemic. These are issues to face in September. After Labor Day.
During August, we can enjoy fresh garden vegetables found at the green markets around the city. The sound of children’s laugher and joy wafts through the air as they run under sprinklers in our parks. Central Park is crowded with even more rented bicycles and horse-drawn carriages, outdoor theaters are hosting performances of Shakespeare, and the café’s that have spilled out onto the street are thriving.
So, it is as we shift from summer into the autumn season. Our lives have been filled with unexpected events and circumstances over the last year. Now in August, we have the time and the space to renew and enjoy: the quiet whistling of the wind in the trees, the lapping of the waves against the shores and across the rocks, the beauty of the clouds floating in the sky and the pure music and songs of the birds.
Shy, quiet August is one of my favorite months.