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“August,” …”to be profoundly honored, venerated.” ‘Venerated,’ … “worthy of respect due to great age, character, position or dignity.”

I’ve always respected August. There’s something breezy yet solemn about this month. It is a month to be savored more than any other. It’s the last month of summer, the last month of being able to procrastinate, make excuses, play hooky, dress like a slob, wake up late, eat summery junk food, and just plain relax.

August has charms that calm if you let it. Forget leaving for vacation on a Friday night or early Saturday morning (unless you can be on the road at 5 a.m. or earlier). Plan to avoid aggravations; plan on drinking in the frangrance of newly sliced watermelon, the smell of roses growing wild in the meadow. No business books at the beach turn off the cell, live for the moment, the right now.

I watched seagulls last August and a small boy was chasing each along the shore. Finally, his older sister came with a bag of chips and they worked together to lure the birds closer. Suddenly the boy ran back to their picnic table and grabbed a drumstick from their chicken picnic and ran back to the gulls. As he started to throw the half eaten leg to the birds his sister screamed. “Seagulls don’t eat meat, they eat fish! And trying to feed them chicken is like asking them to eat a relative!”

The boy held the drumstick in mid air and suddenly took a bite out of it, “It’s not related to me!” he said triumphantly.

Somehow, for me, August has always been about learning. It’s a month during which I seem to always discover some important truths or lessons; some painful, some delightful, many surprising and each has been memorable.

I remember one August when I was 11 and I was particularly bored; camp was over and Vacation Bible School was just a memory. Suddenly, while I was sitting on a swing in my backyard nibbling on my candy necklace, a huge truck pulled up and dropped off a box the size of a washing machine. I ran to the box and saw the postmark and label: it was from my aunt Rita in Pueblo Colo. Wow, I imagined; Indians, deserts, gigantic boulders and sand.

I tore open the box and out spilled a decade’s worth of “National Geographic” magazines; no note, just hundreds of magazines that were to become my instant, full-color passport to the world outside my door. I gathered up as many I could carry and sprawled out under our willow tree with a baloney sandwich and a cold bottle of root beer and read until I fell asleep late that afternoon as a summer storm sat poised on the horizon. I woke up hearing the rumble of thunder, just in time to drag my magazines into our garage before the pelting rains exploded. All the rest of August I traveled courtesy of the “National Geographic” and the month flew by.

What did I learn last August? Let’s see, I watched butterflies line up along the shore of a lake to bask in the early morning sun (it sort of looked like speed dating with wings). I learned that if you wake up really early in the morning before the birds do and sit on your porch, you’d see bats flying home (and where they live). I now know that swallows like to fly really fast and low by catching the wind over the water and then dive-bombing each other to play chicken. That if your tennis ball lands in a small stream it will float for a while and that ducks like to follow it until it sinks. That teenagers cannot stop themselves from texting and if they do not carry their iPod, iPhone, cell or Blackberry, they feel, as one 19-year old put it, “Insecure.”

“A mind stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

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