Peter Cavanaugh

Fighting those summertime blues

“Sometimes I wonder what I'm a-gonna do --

But there ain't no cure for the summertime blues.”

First recorded by the late Eddie Cochran in 1958, the song gained further fame performed by such notables as The Beach Boys (1962), Blue Cheer (1968) and The Who (1970).

Summertime Blues is seminal early rock and roll, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, ranked 73 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all time, and officially listed in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame among critical contributions that indelibly shaped contemporary American music.

Today is Aug. 10 – the 222 day of 2017.

This time every year I encounter my own Summertime Blues as days get shorter, nights get cooler and the shimmer of summer gives way to the colors of fall and beyond. Another legendary Rock and roller, Bob Seger, properly nailed it when he poignantly observed, “Strange how the night moves with autumn closing in” – wistfully sharing nostalgic adult memories of faded adolescent love.

Our grandkiddies in Tennessee have already returned to school. In Madera County, we’ll see those yellow buses back on the road next week with Yosemite High students in class again on Aug. 17. Let’s once more particularly be on watch for excited little ones playfully energized in roadside wait.

The wheel of the seasons turns with increasing speed as our lives race on, hurling toward the finish line with relentless subconscious impatience, the promise of a new beginning impressed or implied by every major world religion since time, itself, began.

What appears like an eternal summer through the eyes of childhood now seems to flash in a day, then dashes away.

In my own reflections generated by the bittersweet departure of summer, I find myself facing the choice of being frightened – or enlightened.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. remains a personal hero of mine.

Mr. Vonnegut was captured by German troops near the end of World War II and held as a prisoner-of-war in a deep cellar located below “Schlachthof Fünf” in Dresden. This ironically saved and changed his life forever when British and American forces firebombed the city on Feb. 13, 1945, reducing the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and ruin, and killing an estimated 135,000 Germans in the process.

Returning to civilian life after formal German surrender only ten weeks later, Vonnegut went on to eventually write the semi-autobiographical Slaughterhouse-Five – The Children’s Crusade – a Duty Dance with Death. Published in 1969 (the year of Woodstock) and described at the time as a “satirical novel,” the book quickly established Vonnegut as one of the most gifted, if not controversial, writers of his generation.

One of his most profound works was Breakfast of Champions, published in 1975. In Vonnegut’s own words, it tells the story of “two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast.”

From such a somber introduction, a number of final conclusions are brilliantly inspirational. Particularly coming to mind is this brief passage discussing mankind as a self-evident example of biological machinery, but adding an illuminating introspective into human consciousness, also referenced in certain theological circles as the “soul.”

“His situation, insofar as he was a machine, was complex, tragic and laughable. But the sacred part of him, his awareness, remained an unwavering band of light. At the core of each person who reads this book is a band of unwavering light.”

And at the core of those who read this column, too.

A band of unwavering sacred light – as autumn closes in.

And the night moves.

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