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It’s true, summer tends to linger on like an unwanted guest long after the autumnal equinox gives it the official boot in late September. But the season needs to face facts: Ever since August departed, it’s been looking tired and stale. The same thing happens every year. The first twinges of fall set in — a yellow leaf, a chill in the air when the sun goes down — and summer starts to show its age.

A poet once wrote: “Becoming one-legged — the grasshopper in autumn.” That’s pretty much how summer feels in September. It’s high time it hobbled offstage. And let’s hope it doesn’t try its usual comeback attempt in November. As far as 2006 is concerned, summer’s just not hot anymore.

Still, it’s sad to see it get ready to go, even as we relish the thought of cooler days and brighter skies. Some of this has nothing to do with the weather. August means vacation time, festivals and fireworks; September and October, by contrast, can’t help feeling like a pair of scolds. They are eye-catching months, but they do seem to want us to keep our noses to the grindstone. One starts to miss summer’s easygoing ways.

The great painters understood this ambivalence. It’s hard at this time of year, for instance, not to think of Monet’s 1891 masterpiece, “Wheat Stacks (End of Summer).” That pinkish-golden light falling across the green fields cuts to the heart. Beautiful, but shot through with melancholy.

As for the poets, they tend to get melancholy about anything passing, to the point where some of them can hardly enjoy a season while it’s still at its peak. Here’s Basho: “How soon the morning-glory’s hour must end! Alas! It, too, can never be my friend.” Now that’s carrying sensitivity a bit too far.

Our advice? As the young say, keep it real. Sort those vacation photos, make the most of fall and hope you’re around this time next year to send summer on its way all over again.

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