by T.K. Mills
High poetry and low:
Experience in perihelion
Or in the penumbra of a summer night —
Things in August
August: The eighth month of the year; a great respect, majestic, venerable, inspiring the highest admiration and regard.
Standing on the porch, I watched in awe. The winds raged, blowing in furious black clouds that stormed the sky blue sky. Thunder boomed and lightning marched triumphant. Rain erupted and cascaded down in columns. The water ran down the hill of our front yard and flooded the driveway. A river formed and swept the street. From the sanctuary of home, I watched the violence of nature with a primal respect. Beside my seven-year-old self, my nanny witnessed the tempest. The electric lights danced with intensity, their rhythms punctuated by thunderous chords. As I stood admiring the scene, she turned to me and said. “I love an August storm.”
Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor. Near the end of his life, when given the opportunity to take his 31 days, Augustus chose this time of the year because it was the season of his greatest triumphs. Among them, the conquest of Alexandria, which rewarded him his ascension to the role of sovereign. Beyond Egypt, he expanded the empire and set the precedent for Pax Romana, the longest period of internal imperial peace.
I am walking, lost in a place I know by heart. The path is well worn, the forest a familiar wood. Through the canopy, sunlight glows in shades of green. A creek washes the shallow tide of smooth stones, boulders reduced to pebbles. Walking beside the stream, I can hear birds calling somewhere in the distance, but I am the only soul here. I stop and sit along the rocks, taking my shoes off to dip my feet. Despite the summer warmth, the water feels crisp. There’s a sensation of timelessness here, yet I find myself waiting. Like a church before prayer, the air is still with anticipation; August is the Sunday of summer. Thirteen years old, I wonder what life brings next. I lay back, and watch the green-gold glow of light. The creek flows across my feet, bringing with it a sense of meditative calm. Closing my eyes, I sink into a daydream. After several lifetime pass before me, the wind picks up, waking my reverie. Content, I breathe in the August breeze.
While in power, Augustus adopted the title of “First Citizen of the State,” to retain virtues of the republic, although in effect he was the supreme authority. Reigning for forty years, Augustus was intelligent, decisive, and shrewd. A capable commander and cunning politician. As a ruler, he was well-meaning; as a writer, well-read. At the age of 75, Augustus died on August 19th. His last words were, "Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.” 1,978 years after the death of the First Citizen, I was born on the ides of August.
The rooftop bar is packed with a loud crowd, but it’s good to be surrounded by friends. A full moon radiates over my 21st birthday gathering. Drunk off the day, shots are poured to announce the night. Bottles clink, conversations flare, and nothing can be heard amongst the noise; communication is just gestures and smiles. The summer lion, I hold court with good intentions.
Under the influence of laughter, people begin to depart. Some with repeated goodbyes, others an unspoken exit. Eventually, all that is left is a close circle of friends. We retreat to the beach to circle around the bonfire. By now, the hour is late, well past twilight. The flames flicker as I shift the logs. Things have gotten quiet and the conversation intimate. We speak our truths. As the fire fades, I am left with an august affinity for my companions and confidants.
These are the moments that come to mind when I think of August. Even if I tried to articulate them all, I’d fail to capture it fully. A few vignettes etched in memory, recollections too perfect to be true. Triumph, tranquility, and celebration; revelries, reveries, and reverence. What you hold in highest regard is a reflection of your soul, and my affections show. Let these shine, my August love under August light.
T.K. Mills is an art journalist based in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Currently, he is writing a book on street art in New York.