The Faces of August in Lower Alabama
The Faces of August in Lower Alabama

“I’m so glad I live in a world that has Octobers,” said the irrepressible Anne (with an “e”) Shirley as she breathed in the aura of Prince Edward Island.  Languishing through the staggering heat and humidity that is a South Alabama August, I take heart from that gangly Titian of Green Gables and wipe the sweat from my eyes in hopes of seeing my way to October.

August is a weird month for me.  I have a love/hate relationship with Augusts.  Of course, there is always the excitement of a new school year and the challenges teaching droves of teenagers brings, but with that comes a sort of breathless rush toward the holidays punctuated by the roar of the crowds during football season.  In August, I get hyper-organized and, frankly, somewhat exhausted by all my well-laid plans for the coming year.

For teachers, August marks the beginning of the year even though we’re technically eight months in.  New classes, new kids, new clothes, new sports, new lessons, new attitude.  All the newness of August would leave me winded if the oppressive heat hadn’t already soaked my lungs with moisture.  Although I am more than grateful to Mr. Carrier for the glorious invention of air conditioning, the face-slapping climate change between walking indoors and out along with the sudden exposure to, shall we say, teen spirit sandblasts my throat every opening week of school.  August is an uncomfortable marriage of freezing and frying.

August is a rush.  We rush to get school started and then we rush to get school “started”.  We open the football season with heat safety timeouts and sweat-soaked band uniforms. Heat rises in visible eddies from the asphalt as I rush to the store for those “What, a project already?” supplies.  The slow, easy pace of June and July fades like a mirage in the rearview mirror.

August has its ups and downs on the farm, too.  August brings the sweet goodness of muscadines and the comic antics of the ducks when they get ahold of too many grapes fermented by the Alabama sun.  The dogs dig out wallows that become mud holes when the humidity finally lets loose with electric ferocity.  The chickens are just plumb worn out from heat and may even stop laying altogether.  The cats nap on oak branches to catch any breeze that whistles through the trees.  The cows follow the shade, lowing half-heartedly as they lumber across the pasture.  The donkey approaches vulgarity with the frequency of his “showmanship”.  Never does a barnyard smell more like a barnyard than when it’s in the throes of August.

The grass looks its age and the salvia grows gangly and rank.  The yellow jasmine makes a bedraggled climb as its petals droop and fall soundlessly to the ground.  The evergreens take on an almost greyish hue, as if holding their breath for that first hint of fall.  It will be a long wait.  August is a jealous lover of Lower Alabama and rarely relinquishes her stranglehold before mid-September.

I’ll wait, too.  Anne and I are kindred spirits as dear as lifelong friends.  I can’t imagine a world without Octobers.



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