In the past I have had this curious sensation as August passes into September. The mere change of month can spark off a nostalgia. It is one that is deeply rooted, that goes back over the decades. To now see a beach in Majorca in early September is as it has long been - to imagine the ghosts of recently departed summer; to be deaf to the splashes, shouts and the laughter; to lose what can seem like the sleep time of a suffocating heat, made acceptable by the sudden freshness of afternoon breezes, so long as they aren’t blowing from the south.
But September seems like August. A seamless transition of the heart-wrenching vacuum of a summer destroyed, save for the blissful interruption of rain and the apparently unerring capability of Mother Nature to time her stormy run at the back end of August. There is, there can be no nostalgia for the immediate passing; the reminisce is indeed in the past.
Well before summer arrived, I had the premonition of its ghosts. This was at a time, after the state of alarm was declared, when one could scan the near horizon and remind oneself of summers of the past. It was a search for what might have been hoped but which, one felt, wasn’t going to be a reality. It was an observation made the more surreal by the absence of sound. On a Sunday morning, there was none; only the singing of birds. Even the church bells had stopped ringing.
I admit to a sadness. Not a depression. An unshakeable sadness at the knowledge that those spirits of summer would be taken from us - and it was us; all those who rely on the summer. For an all too brief time, there was a flirtation, a seduction that was denied a consummation by a presence unseen. There were ghosts stalking the streets. They had been taken by this invisible force.
There was an article the other day. Notable or some less than notable figures from Majorcan society were asked what had been good and bad about the summer. What could possibly have been expected, other than what more or less all of them said?
Good was having been able to enjoy a more relaxing summer than normal. Good was the fact of the island having been quieter. Good was the time that could be spent with friends and family. Good was having been able to get to see parts of the island that hadn’t been explored before. Good was enjoying a more natural Majorca, especially as there was time to go to this nature - the mountains, for instance.
It was all good because of the time. And this time meant underemployment or unemployment (offset by ERTE for many). It was a summer of unexpected opportunity. Yet in truth it was a summer of doing nothing, or very little. It was a summer devoid of context, stripped of meaning, discoloured by uncertainty.
The bad was principally the uncertainty, several of these interviewees confessed. The uncertainty came in so many ways. There were fleeting glimpses of a normality, but this was a normality which always felt as though it were illusory and only served to lessen the anxieties of pending summer’s end. It was an uncertainty which conspired to foster the artifice of a summer, for which there might after all be a sense of nostalgia as it faded with a lowering sun.
What else were these people expected to say? What else could they say? They expressed their great regret for tourism businesses in particular; they mourned lost ones; they missed friends who had been unable (or maybe unwilling) to travel to the island; they were saddened by not having been able to hug friends who were here; they understood but would prefer not to have to suffer the infernal masks. But there was especially that uncertainty, now made more so by an apparent second wave, which has crashed onto a shore so untroubled during summer and been carried by an epidemiological equivalent of the late summer storm.
In May, I wrote about uncertainty, about how we react to it - often by lashing out - and a bad of summer has been a growing appreciation that all that goodwill that had been shown, that the notion of being nicer, has been evaporating. Social networks have their definite downside. I quoted Dr. David Rock. In an article entitled “A Hunger for Certainty”, he wrote: “Your brain doesn’t like uncertainty - it’s like a type of pain, something to be avoided.”
Summer is ending. There is no nostalgia, only the uncertainty.