Keep the summer spirit alive after Labour Day weekend: Micallef
You shouldn't go gentle into that autumnal good night, argues Shawn Micallef. Get out and enjoy the rest of the sunny days while you can.
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Labour Day always feels like the pressure is on to squeeze every last bit out of summer. It’s a most laborious way to “end” summer, with a dark cloud looming over the long weekend like being on the beach on an overcast day.
The usual Sunday doldrums — or dread, depending on your situation — shift to Monday and this Tuesday becomes the Mother of all Mondays. Monday, the holiday, is a little ruined in the mix.
What a strange and terribly confused long weekend we’ve collectively created. All that pressure distracts from the reason for the long weekend itself: to celebrate workers, the eight-hour workday and the notion of the “weekend” itself.
The Canadian holiday can be traced back to 1872 and the Toronto Typographical Union’s printers strike that fought for a nine-hour workday. In April of that year, there was a march and 10,000 people gathered at Queen’s Park. The workers won and eventually, in 1894, Labour Day became official each September in Canada.
Since there isn’t a particularly strong reason to celebrate labour in September, perhaps it would be better to celebrate all of what it represents on May 1 — International Workers Day — as so many other countries around the world do. Since many precarious workers work more than nine hours a day, maybe it’ll kick-start a new call for workers’ rights, without the distraction of the arbitrary and false end of summer that Labour Day currently represents.
Oh, and make May 1 a holiday, too.
Instead let’s call this fine weekend the “Two-Thirds-or-Thereabouts-Way-Through-Summer” holiday. It would be a reminder to everyone to embrace the weeks of summer to come, and respect, for once, the long-suffering autumnal equinox.
How must that equinox feel on its special day, Sept. 22, when everybody is all “Oh hey, autumnal, we celebrated you three weeks ago. Sorry you weren’t there.” By its nature, the equinox is quite even-handed, so it doesn’t put up a fuss, but let’s not let it down again.
Fall is good and great, and it will come in time. But September’s summer days are wonderful: a kinder, gentler summer without the scorching heat waves. (For now, at least. Climate change could make September the new August soon enough.) There’s less sweating, so the city smells better, transit rides are more pleasant, and we can sleep with the windows open and hear the city rather than the hum of an air conditioner.
September is full of surprises too. Sometimes the temperature will dip into the teens on sunny afternoons, and people will declare Winter Is Coming! But then it’ll go back up again.
The lake doesn’t care about any of this. It retains warmth the way subway tunnels hold heat and humidity days after a heat wave is over, and so it’s the nicest time to go for a swim. A decade or so ago, during a particularly warm Thanksgiving Day, we swam in the near-bathtub-warm lake at Hanlan’s Point as the leaves were changing colour, perhaps the most wonderful cognitive dissonance I’ve ever experienced. Somebody even brought a roast turkey to the beach.
September summer is also summer when the city is at full force again. So much of the middle classes depart for cottages or vacations during July and August that parts of the city can feel downright deserted. But everybody’s back in town this week.
Forget talk of the end; join the beginning of the One-Third-More-Summer movement this weekend and throughout September. Show your support by continuing not to wear socks in your shoes, leaving your coats at home even if you’re the only one and keeping your pastel-coloured clothes in rotation even if you stick out like a chalk-covered thumb. Defy the crowd. Embrace the whole season.
Most of us worked through the summer so there’s no reason Tuesday should be any kind of harsher Monday. But it’s telling how impressionable the rigid school year is on us that that old-school September feeling lasts our entire lives.
More people are remaining single and the millennials are said to be putting off having children, so there are more people unshackled from the rigour of the school year anyway.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,” wrote Dylan Thomas. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Embrace each summer day we’ve got left, hold it tight, and then go gently into the fall when it decides to come around.
Shawn Micallef writes weekly about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmicallef