After the exodus, those left behind get to stretch out.
The plants are the first. Not to startle, the flowers begin with hints of green. Then dark purples, lavenders, blues, yellows, whites, and on until winter again. Trees move more cautiously through time, not quite convinced of the spring until the charcoal smoke of Memorial Day and haggling voices from garage sales reach and rattle their buds.
Streets are left so empty that many close, and, sensing the open commercial space, vagrant artists spot an opportunity to ply their wares and unload conversion vans full of homemade goods. As they have been doing it for so long, the city acquiesced and issued proper permits. The children of the original artists, not wanting to associate with their parents, began a competing art fair. This continued for several generations, which is why today there are four different fairs in Ann Arbor – all at the same time.
Along other closed streets, musicians or movies play to crowds on a lawn. Attendees pray against mosquito and thunderstorm. Children drunk on summer with hands and mouths covered in sugar run free while adults are penned in to drink chardonnay and sit in flimsy chairs next to tilted tables. “Where’s your brother?” a mother will listlessly say across the waist-high barricade as a Pixar movie from five years ago attempts to drown out humid conversations.
Vacant apartments and summer subletters bake without air conditioning. In search of cooler living, many set off down the Huron River with beer coolers tied to the back of their kayak, canoe, inner tube, or pool noodle raft. Depending on the rains, shallows beach the less buoyant boats, offering a good chance to break into beer, or splash a neighbor.
Construction crews, like bees, know it is their season. Buzzing with concrete saws and welding rebar honeycombs, they work as long as the sun. Their role is often underappreciated, and their presence is often seen as an annoyance. However, their main defense, potholes, can sting repeatedly.
Meteor showers, which are visible to those in town, around Michigan, and specific out-of-state and out-of-country students, are signal flares to all to begin preparations. Meijer executives stock stores with the latest hardened plastic hamper-desk-shower caddy combo. Ping pong ball makers ramp up production. Professors dust off last year’s syllabus, with a quick edit to use the 22nd edition textbook. And trees, hearing the roar of fall football, prepare to show their own maize colors in time for an important November game.