August is the Worst Month

August is the Worst Month August 2, 2023

Can I be honest? I’m struggling a bit at the moment. Nothing traumatic has happened and I’m not facing any sort of imminent danger. I’m not in an existential crisis or dark night of the soul. But the Awen isn’t flowing. Writing – whether for the blog, a book, or anything else – is almost impossible. And it’s not just writing – it’s pretty much everything at the moment.

This isn’t the first time this has happened – and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last. One of the advantages of getting older is that you’ve seen things like this before, not once or twice but numerous times. That doesn’t make them any less unpleasant and frustrating, but at least you know you’ll get through it, because you always have.

You know what else comes with getting older? A lot of notes… at least if you keep good notes. And I do. Looking through those notes, this same pattern shows up time and time again in early August. It’s almost like there’s something about this time of year that doesn’t agree with me. That’s not all of it. The political environment is toxic, and there are some difficulties that are mainly mine.

But August is the worst month.

photo by John Beckett

Let’s start with the fact that on average, the first week of August is the hottest week of the year in North Texas. It’s supposed to be 106 F (41 C) today and there’s no end to the 100 degree days (with no rain) in sight. Some years are hotter and some years aren’t quite so hot, but it’s always miserable in Texas this time of year. The older I get the less I tolerate the heat, which means the more I stay indoors. I’m thankful for air conditioning, but I’m concerned about the electric bill. We have good insulation, good air conditioners, and two beautiful live oak trees in our south-facing front yard, but electric rates have gone up like everything else and this month is going to be astronomical. But I’d rather pay it than roast.

I like sports more than the average Pagan. I’m not obsessed with them, but they provide a nice diversion. This time of year the only major team sport going is baseball. But while I’m happy about the rules changes implemented this year (the pitch clock is a good thing even though it shouldn’t be necessary) it’s going to take a more than one year to rebuild the interest I lost because of steroids, a structure where the big market teams get all the good players, and analytics sucking the soul out of the game. We do have the Women’s World Cup this year, but I’m not a huge soccer fan and the U.S. team isn’t having a good run, at least through group play.

Spiritually, this is a rather dry time as well. Lughnasadh is worth celebrating and I had a good time at the Denton CUUPS ritual last Saturday. But it’s not a very popular sabbat, and our turnout reflected that. Plus it was hot. We couldn’t be outside, and the air conditioners couldn’t handle 101 degrees plus radiant heat from the sun plus the heat load generated by a bunch of people. And because the quarters and cross quarters aren’t evenly spread on the calendar (at least as they’re actually celebrated by most people) it will be eight weeks until the next high day… the Fall Equinox, which is also not a popular sabbat.

photo by John Beckett

Does this sound like whining? “First world problems”? Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s the Anglo-American insistence on ignoring the seasons and “being productive” year-round, with two weeks of vacation and a few days off at the end of the year – if you don’t work in retail or hospitality.

In a more reasonable world, things would be slower this time of year. Perhaps that’s the reason the Pagan world doesn’t have much going on in August – we intuitively feel the need to slow down, stay out of the heat, drink lots of water, and think about what we’re going to do when things aren’t so hot. Which here is usually about the middle of September, though some years it’s much later. Trying to map the agricultural calendar of Iron Age Britain and Ireland onto the American Southwest is problematic, but celebrating Samhain as Summer’s End is a very good fit.

Perhaps the best thing about seasons is that they always change. This is our hottest week, which means cooler temperatures are coming, eventually if not right away. The longest day of the year was six weeks ago, which means you can now tell that the days are getting shorter. NFL training camps are in full swing, which means football will be back soon. The Hall of Fame game is tomorrow night. It’s meaningless, but it’s football. I do feel sorry for the high school players who are starting practice this week, but they’ll be working early before it gets dangerously hot. There are rules and precautions to prevent heat-related complications – most coaches take them seriously. Most <sigh>.

And as for me, well, some things never change. Daily spiritual practice goes on day in and day out. Weekly offerings and meditations go on week in and week out. These core spiritual practices keep me going in good times and in bad.

photo by John Beckett

I’m confident the Awen will start flowing again, because it always has. Eventually the words start coming and the pages start filling. At least as long as I sit down and work at it. To mildly paraphrase the immortal Dorothy Parker, writing is the art of applying ass to seat and fingers to keyboard.

I have three open weekends this month. It’s the worst month, the hottest month, and I’m not going to overschedule myself. I scheduled joy one weekend… or at least, I hope it will be a joyful experience. You can never be sure – you have to take the risk.

And I have work to do that has deadlines, and I do not miss deadlines. Commitments – to my Gods, to my community, and to myself – must be kept no matter how hot and depressing things get. That will probably fill my open weekends. And that’s OK. There will still be time to watch old movies and read new books.

Sometimes things getting better requires making them better, either by changing your circumstances or by doing some things or both. That’s a matter of will. Other times it’s a matter of waiting for the seasons to turn. In my case, it’s a little of both. Just writing this in a stream of consciousness manner (which I almost never do) has helped. I feel better than I did when I put my ass in this seat and my fingers on this keyboard.

And it also helps to remember that while August is the worst month, it only has 29 more days.

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