Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer's End

Summer flowers at the Art Museum

Dear George,
Here we are, wrapping up another summer.  As usual, time seems to whiz by.  It’s a matter of opinion, but in some ways summer seems like the best season of the year – picnics, tennis, swimming at the beach, sunsets, parades, fireworks, outdoor concerts, vacation trips, white wine on the patio.  It dawns on me that everybody gets a finite number of summers in their lifetimes.  Sometimes, just a few; sometimes up to a hundred or more.  But, whatever the case, it’s always a limited number, and it’s up to us to appreciate and make the most of each of them.

At our house the first part of summer 2012 was pretty low key, dominated by Katja’s knee replacement surgery.  The surgeon was highly pleased with the operation, describing it as the most successful of his career.  While the recovery process was painful and seemingly endless at the time, Katja did better than with her prior knee surgery a dozen years ago, and the overall results have been rewarding and life-enhancing.  Katja did six weeks of physical therapy at the hospital associated with our fitness center, and she looked forward to working with the therapists.  Her new knee is as good as gold.        

Summer was an excellent time for recuperating because we got to enjoy a lot of Grand Slam tennis on TV – the French Open, Wimbledon, and eventually the US Open.  We remain ardent fans of Roger Federer, and we were thrilled when he regained his form and won Wimbledon (then dismayed when he got knocked out of the Open too early).  Katja was up and around by the time that the ATP Masters Tournament arrived in Cincinnati in August, and, thanks to our friends Paula and Frank sharing their subscription tickets, we got to see Roger and numerous other top pros in person, a thrilling experience.  I’ve been going to the Cincinnati tournament since it was a small-scale affair at the Cincinnati Tennis Club in the 1960’s, and now it’s evolved into one of the top ten tennis events in the world.  

At Center Court at the ATP 

This has been a summer of music in Cincinnati.  Katja bought subscription tickets to the summer opera season, and we enjoyed the world-class performances at Music Hall (Pagliacci and Gianni Schicci; Porgy and Bess; La Traviata).  My favorite was a smaller opera which they staged in the Music Hall Ballroom.  It was called Maria de Buenos Aires and recounted metaphorically the birth of the tango, incorporating dancing throughout by a world champion duo.  It was breathtaking.  In addition to the opera, the World Choir Games, with over 20,000 participants from nearly 50 countries, were held here for ten days in June.   We went to one concert at our neighborhood Arts Center and soaked up the overall atmosphere through the concentrated media coverage.    

Summer is the peak season for the arts locally.  This year we started with a trip to Summerfair at Cincinnati’s Coney Island where 300 artists from around the Midwest exhibited, and we wound up in early September at the Golden Ticket Art Show at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, a smaller but equally high quality show. The Taft Museum has been showing “Old Masters to Impressionists: Three Centuries of French Painting,” and it’s drawn us back a couple of times.  We also enjoyed the Henry Ossawa Tanner exhibition at the Art Museum.  

Golden Ticket show, First floor gallery at the CCAC

Our friend Donna’s mother, Mayme, passed away in early July at age 89, and we were saddened by her loss.  Mayme was the one person in that elderly age cohort with whom we’ve had regular contact in recent years, and both Katja and I regarded her as a surrogate mom.  Then K and J, our daughter-in-law and son, drove up to Michigan with our grandkids for a memorial service for K’s uncle.  One of Katja’s long-time book club friends lost her mom this summer, and one of my best high school friends died.  I recall my parents reaching an age where they had friends and associates passing away on a regular basis, and now I have more appreciation of the sadness and shock of that. 

On a much more agreeable note we drove up to Menominee at the end of July for a family reunion at my parents’ Farm.  Our whole extended family wasn’t able to be there, but my sister Vicki came along with two of her kids and their partners/families, and so did our niece and nephew and family members from Seattle and our own New Orleans family. Our four-year-old grandkids, V and L, were even more grown up than when we’d last seen them, and it was enjoyable to watch them meet and become friends for the first time with their cousins from the West Coast.  We had fun at the DeYoung Family Zoo, the Waterfront Festival, visiting friends, eating frozen custard, and just hanging out.  Farm was looking the best it’s been in years, and the younger generation has taken active responsibility for renovating it and making it a viable family gathering place for years to come.

Our immediate family at Farm: L, K, J, V, Katja, Dave

Because of excessive heat throughout the summer, I haven’t done as much camping with the sheepdogs as I normally do.  We took a couple of overnight trips to Winton Woods and Miami Whitewater Forest which were pleasant and relaxing; then Katja and I spent five days at Lake Cumberland State Park, near the Kentucky-Tennessee border.  The Kentucky State Park system is excellent.  It was too hot though, and the flies were out en masse.  Katja was relieved to get home, but I was reassured when she said she’d like to go next time to a place that has more interesting places to visit.  I’m busy scouting out the possibilities.

Mike and Duffy at the Winton Woods campground

Many of the most pleasant experiences of the summer have involved outings with Katja and get-togethers with friends, e.g., sheepdog hikes in Eden Park, lunch at Bruegger’s or Olive’s, neighborhood walks, Friday night movies at the Esquire, going to the flea market, the Warren County Fair, the zoo and the Krohn Conservatory, the Cincinnati dog show, our recent day trip to Maysville KY and back.  Our doggies, Mike and Duffy, have been participants in some number of these events, and they are definitely the most constant source of daily joy in our lives.  

Donna and Katja at the dog show, Butler County Fairgrounds

It’s also, of course, been a summer of intense politics on the state and national scenes which has had daily impact on our consciousness and mood states.  In my view (and probably that of most others), the current political atmosphere is the most unpleasant in recent memory. Personally I find the style and content of most of the advertising by both parties and their Super Pacs destructive, and I find it particularly distressing to see it coming from the Obama campaign (since I view the President and the administration as high-minded, fair, and constructive).  While the process certain commands one’s attention, I think the prospect of Tea Party Republicans gaining control of the Senate is terrifying.  Ohio gets high priority from both campaigns, and we try to keep a daily eye on the news.

Summer’s end, of course, simultaneously means the onset of Autumn, and that offers one of our most pleasant climates of the year.  This year’s record-setting heat has already fallen away, humidity has dropped, the air seems cleaner, and the environment is more welcoming for outdoor activities.  It definitely peps up the dogs, and that makes us more perky as well.  I decided a while back that I should try to do something significant and rewarding every day.  Though that seems to work more clearly some days than others, it’s definitely a worthwhile resolution.  Now we’ll see how things go for the Fall.

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