Labor Day comes and goes with the passing of the torch from those lazy summer days to the beauty and fun-filled days of Autumn. After a hot summer (okay, a few more days to go), the coolness of these late summer days offer a reprise from the heat of summer.
I think the late summer evenings are so delightful. The other night I just sat out in the darkness watching the night sky and listening to the deafening crickets. I am so fortunate that in my neighborhood, the sound of the crickets is the only sound that surrounds me. I guess that is the one consolation of losing my beautiful tree this summer. The sky opened up for viewing.
The ending of Labor Day and summer brings back rich memories from those once-upon-a-time summers. As a child, we spent our summers on Lake Michigan in a big, rattling house with a pathway down to the water. The house wasn’t ours, but a rental. Once we found it, we rented it every year for the summer. There was no shower or bathtub, but there was running water! The dining room table was big and round with plenty of room for guests to come and share in the fun and the stories and the nightly card games.
Oh, how we hated leaving on Labor Day weekend, yet school was to start, and we had to go home. With sand in our pockets, and the summer accumulation of trinkets, we went home to settle back into the school year. With a sigh we tried on our school shoes. Sometimes they fit, other times, it was back to the shoe store to get new ones! I was always happy when my shoes didn’t fit so I could get new ones! The shoe store was an adventure in itself as we had our feet measured and then x-rayed. That was great fun, and quite unhealthy!
These same thoughts of leaving were always when I came home from Ocracoke with sand in my pockets once again. These days there is no house to rent in Michigan or summers on Ocracoke. Labor Day found me cleaning and late day gardening in and around the purple house! I even picked up a paint brush! Maybe this Autumn I will get more done on my white picket fence. That task is on-going…forever!
In between these chores, I find myself sitting on my porch reading and tossing in some poetry, just because. On Labor Day I head to Carl Sandburg for my inspiration for a reading of his famous poem, “Chicago.”
Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois in 1878. He quit school at the age of 13 and became an American laborer. His may jobs included driving milk wagons and laying brick. He worked as a porter, a coal-heaver, a farm laborer, and a dishwasher as he criss-crossed America. He eventually settled in Chicago to work for the Chicago Daily News. It was there he began to write in earnest. He wrote about the factory conditions, labor rights, race relations and social justice.
In 1914 he wrote the poem, “Chicago,” which was a success and first published in Poetry Magazine. Two years later he published a collection of poetry featuring this poem. This was followed by his collection, “Cornhuskers,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1919.
Carl Sandburg was the people’s poet. He is remembered as one of the greatest American poets of the 20th Century. I celebrate him often, but most of all on Labor Day.
As I re-read Sandburg, I can’t help but think of our town. We are made up of much the same…farmers, laborers, teachers, street cleaners, garbage collectors, nurses, doctors. I also think of Sandburg when I see our firemen sitting outside of their station waiting for the call. I think of Sandburg as the guys redo my street in the coolness of the early morning. I think of Sandburg when the crossing guards take their stance so children are safe to walk to school.
We might not be Chicago, but we are beautiful and mighty with our own stories to tell.
Labor Day comes and goes for another year. I wrap up my paintbrush for another beautiful day. I listen to the crickets…make burgers on the grill, light the garden candles and sit under the stars.
Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders: