Like a summertime breeze drifting away |

Like a summertime breeze drifting away

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

Lie beneath an Aspen grove, and let the last of the summer breeze waft over you. Breathe in the scent of soil after these hard rains; allow the grass to gently brush your neck and arms. Look up to see the delicate green leaves as they dance, sparkling against a rich, blue sky while robins sing the soundtrack of summer. Before long, the cool winds of autumn will blow in, lifting golden leaves from those trees.

What was summer to you? Can you remember, as a child, those endless days, each born anew, fresh and full of potential? Mmm, that feeling, awakening with no plans or schedules, just sunrays beaming in and calling you out to play. What a blessing to be young and safe, present and protected, or at the very least blissfully unaware.

Like watching clouds slowly drifting across the sky, changing shape with such subtlety you hardly notice the vast reshaping occurring before your eyes as life passes by.

Perhaps it is the short summer season here in Snowmass Village that leaves us all scrambling to make the most of every moment, and with such effort we often fail to stop and enjoy the journey. The motto here: Never take for granted a moment of free time on a sunny day.

And why shouldn’t we try to make the most of the luck that has befallen us to have become a collection of molecules that has not only sensory experiences but self-awareness? After all, some infinitesimally small percentage of all the molecules in our solar system are nothing more than asteroids or gas giants, dark matter or star stuff, and we, miraculously, are lucky enough to be living creatures — let alone humans able to be conscious of our own existence and to even enjoy much of it.

Watching my own children growing up has enhanced my awareness of how time slips away and of how each moment of life is so precious. Perhaps I’m struggling with more than just the end of the summer months. Could it be mortality with which we are all grappling?

As I prepare for the summer’s end and the kindergarten send-off of my youngest child, I feel a sinking sadness — as if I’m watching those magical early years start to fade into memories. Are those my memories or my children’s? Like the summers here, it’s all so short and sweet.

I remember when a knot in a tree root had to be a fairy doorway and every new discovery was met with wonder and a hint of magic and that there was a time when you could climb every mountain, even swim across the ocean or rocket to the moon. If you dreamed it up, nothing seemed impossible. And then, you were going to change the world, win a Pulitzer, find a soul mate, travel to distant undiscovered lands and invent the latest and greatest whatcha-ma-thing. But suddenly it’s work and family that occupies the mind, and then one day you turn around and off it all went, like this summer. Did you take any time to notice the clouds changing shape as they passed by?

“A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys / Painted wings and giants’ rings make way for other toys.” Like little Jackie Paper, who leaves behind his magic dragon Puff, I can recall those final summers when child’s play transitioned from shapes in the clouds, songs around the campfires and firefly lanterns to schoolgirl crushes and sleep-away camps. In a blink of an eye, fast-forward to this, the final summer of early childhood for my own children. Goodbye fairy doors and dragon roars; hello soccer balls and classroom walls.

My kids and I found a robin’s nest outside our front door this summer and watched in awe as the eggs hatched and the baby birds grew and then outgrew their nest. Once ready to fly, they jumped from the tree and fell into the yard. My instinct was to try and return them to their nest, unable to accept that they had grown up — that the daily magic they had provided for us had come to an end or that they might now be ready to make it on their own.

During a recent family reunion, I watched my cousin send her oldest daughter off to China, where she will be spending a gap year before heading to Stanford in the fall of 2017. Their sweet, emotional goodbye reminds me of just how soon I will be there, with an empty nest of my own, and of how it all really goes so fast. Ten years ago when we gathered in the same cabins near Ely, Minnesota, my cousin’s daughter was only a little girl herself, and my grandfather was there, the last time I saw him. If we wait another 10 years, we might be introducing a new generation to the beautiful lakes for the first time, but some of us will only be there in spirit.

As each day grows shorter and cool winds start to mix into the summer breeze, I find myself trying to cling to early childhood, nostalgic for my own youth perhaps, while simultaneously trying to comprehend the ephemeral nature of life. I’m not ready to shift gears.

Goodbye summer, so bittersweet. In the midst of it all, it is easy to miss how fast it really goes and how our lives are happening all around us, drifting by whether we stop to notice or not.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind. After all, if we always agree, what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at

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