This Enigmatic Month

Augustís calendar page may lack exciting entries, but through the scorching heat and humid haze you can spot some reasons why itís actually a pretty cool month (figuratively speaking, that is).

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Exec. Editor

Richard Johnstone

Augustís calendar page may lack exciting entries, but through the scorching heat and humid haze you can spot some reasons why itís actually a pretty cool month (figuratively speaking, that is).

Of the 12 units into which we divide our year, August seems the hardest to categorize. January welcomes the New Year, February celebrates the warmth of love in the midst of cold, and March applauds the coming of spring with a wearing oí the green. April honors fools and trees and faith, May distills into its days the very essence of glorious spring, and June opens the schoolhouse door and frees us to enjoy summertimeís leisure pursuits.

July throws patriotic parties that dazzle with the pomp and pop-pop-pop of fireworks, while September heralds autumn and calls us back to our lives at home and school and work. October, meanwhile, washes over the landscape with cool breezes and paints it with generous splashes of oranges and yellows and reds.

November offers us an opportunity to thank our Maker for bounteous blessings, while December pulls family and friends together, around the common hearth, to celebrate religious traditions and to mark the close of another calendar year.

August, on the other hand ... well, itís a bit of an enigma. Unlike its 11 calendar companions, August has no major holidays. And calendar makers often seem to have difficulty simply figuring out what imagery to use for the month. Letís face it, August is well-known (maybe best-known) around these parts for two things: heat and humidity. So calendars that pride themselves on beautiful images tend to shy away from photos of crispy grass and perspiring people.

Yet, after cogitating on it for a bit, we were able to come up with eight reasons to remember, and appreciate, this enigmatic 8th month of the calendar year.

#1  It was named after the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 BC14 AD), whose reign marked the high point of Roman culture, with written classics during this time by such literary luminaries as Livy, Horace, Ovid and Virgil, whose works are still being read today.

#2  With kids out of school, itís a great month for family vacations. Itís also the last month the kids are out of school, which may prompt a different sort of parental celebration.

#3  It joins July (with the masculine Julius and the feminine Julia, Julie and Juliet) as the only two months that have both masculine (August or Augustus, often shortened to Gus) and feminine (Augusta) forms.

#4  Arguably, it has the most awesome usage of its name for a different meaning. August, of course, is also an adjective that Mr. Webster has defined as ďinspiring awe and reverence; imposing and magnificent; worthy of respect because of age and dignity, high position, etc.Ē Which begs the question: Is August an august month?

#5  Congress takes a recess during August, meaning our congressional representatives are not in Washington debating the issues of the day. Weíll let you decide whether thatís good or bad. Weíre pretty sure what a public opinion survey on this question would show.

#6  There are lots of good ó and good-for-you ó fresh fruits and vegetables available in August. There are beans and squash and okra and corn and peaches. Which leads, of course, to servings of butter beans, and squash casserole, and fried okra, and corn on the cob with butter and salt, and peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Pretty tasty rewards for enduring the heat and humidity of the calendarís ďdog days.Ē

#7  And speaking of heat and humidity, these may well help us to appreciate autumn and spring all the more, right?

#8  Finally, our favorite reason to remember and appreciate August: Itís a great month for church revivals ... twilight picnics ... fishing ... baseball games ... and electric cooperative annual meetings. In fact, about a third of the electric cooperatives in Virginia hold their annual meetings in August.

Back in the 1930s and í40s, when cooperatives were formed, August was a great time for the mostly rural customer-owners of cooperatives to get together and conduct the business affairs of their utility, after spring planting and before fall harvest.

So hereís to an august month, rich in classical tradition, filled with leisure pursuits, spared from the agonies of national political dust-ups, offering us the fresh bounty of field and orchard ... not a bad swap for that heat and humidity, now, is it?



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