Ah, August on the Chesapeake. Set the broiler on stun and slide on in there. The month is like a Hollywood divorce. Tedious, tawdry and vaguely sad. Along with sea nettles, it's one of those little details of local knowledge the tourism people would rather just skip over.
The first week of August last year, anyone desperate or foolish enough to go boating without onboard climate control quickly resembled a Perdue Oven Stuffer Roaster. We didn't need any little white thingie to pop up telling us we were done; a few hours in the rotisserie and we were extra crispy, thank you. Swimming wasn't an option, since by then most of the Bay was so thick with sea nettles it was like cruising in tapioca pudding. After a week of this, a much ballyhooed cold front arrived. And arrived. And kept arriving. I didn't think anything moved slower in August than Congress, but I was wrong. It rained forever, and instead of a decent cool breeze when it was all over, Mother Nature reset the sauna dial to the tuna-melt setting.
Of course, we were foolish and desperate enough to go boating, because it was August, and after August comes September, and after September, you start smelling the sleety breath of winter. A touch of desperation is a natural reaction this time of year; just look around at the rest of the world in August and you will see. Everything is panicking. Your garden for example. It's no longer thriving; it's mutating. The tomato plants have devoured the stakes upon which they once leaned and are now wrapping their limbs around anything firm they can grab, writhing in their frantic, last-ditch growth spurt. You dare not sit still too long for fear of being assimilated. It's like a B horror movie out there. Cicadas rattle and buzz like a sick air conditioner, while at night, crickets drone and scratch their sad, end-of-summer song.
Funny thing about August though; it also has its special moments of consolation-a kind of reward for those of us addled enough to endure its trials. The full moon rising, for instance, as orange and juicy as an Eastern Shore cantaloupe. Resting quietly at anchor under that moon, the mosquito coil working just as advertised, the shimmering heat of day finally giving way to a luscious, feathery breeze across the water. Racing overnight from Annapolis to St. Mary's College in the Governor's Cup in a midnight westerly, and watching the sunrise-after you're finished and tied up. Ice. Lots of ice, piled into sweating glasses. No matter what your poison, August makes it taste like liquid heaven going down. The glorious shock when you shove your hat into the water at the bottom of the icebox and then jam it back on your head. Big Boy tomatoes and sweet corn so plentiful that's pretty much all you need to stock in the galley for the weekend.
So, maybe I can forgive August. Maybe it's just nature's way of saying it's time to get on with things, like school and work and yes, even autumn. After all, any month that can actually make Labor Day look good can't be all bad.