The first week of August

The former Sun Wheel, now restyled as Mickey's Fun Wheel, has moving gondolas. Disney's California Adventure Park, Anaheim, California, April 2003

The former Sun Wheel, now restyled as Mickey’s Fun Wheel, has moving gondolas.
Disney’s California Adventure Park, Anaheim, California, April 2003

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.”
Natalie Babbitt

When I was a child, and we would go to a fair or amusement park, we would sometimes be allowed to choose one ride to experience.  It was never a contest for me; my favorite was the Ferris wheel.  I loved the birds-eye view of the ground below, and the feeling of sailing over the top and downward, which was as close as I could come to flying without an airplane.

I’m no longer fond of these rides; I hadn’t the slightest desire to ride the London Eye, for example.  But Disney’s “Soaring Over California” (or its later Florida version at Disney World, called “Soaring”) is such an all-time favorite that I always ride it several times on each visit.  It’s a virtual hang gliding ride over the vast, varied and beautiful highlights of a remarkable state.  With the help of technology, it delivers the ultimate birds-eye view of stunning sights I will never experience from that vantage point in real life.  That feeling of soaring, briefly motionless and high over everything, is always a thrill.

I love Babbitt’s analogy of the first week of August as the top of the Ferris wheel, “motionless and hot,” that breathless pause before we glide down into the lovely autumn weather and the waning of another year.  Now is the time to drink in the view of what lies behind us, and anticipate the accelerating pace that will soon begin, as the start of school, the fall holidays and the last of the sunshine fly past us almost too quickly to fully appreciate.

Whether you’re north of the equator and enjoying the peak of iced-tea or lemonade season, or south of the equator and sipping hot coffee or cider, I wish you a few moments of serenity as the turning of the wheel pauses briefly before whooshing down to the close of another year.

One year ago today:

The most perfect refreshment




  1. singleseatfighterpilot

    I have always been terrified by the Ferris Wheel. During my dating years, I tried to hide this fear; but the very floating feeling over the top which thrills Julia is extremely disconcerting to me. (I also have a mild case of acrophobia.) Where do I look for Summer’s simile?

    • Wow, this amazes me, to think an F-100 pilot would fear a Ferris Wheel. However, on second thought, there is absolutely no control in one’s hands when riding on a carnival ride. Perhaps your best metaphor for summer would be “Ladies and gentlemen, we are nearing our final approach to [the end of 2014]. Please be sure that your tray tables are in the upright and locked position, and note that the Captain has turned on the seatbelt sign.” πŸ˜€ Farewell to the escape to the skies, hello to earth again. That may not be exact, but outside of a Ferris Wheel, it’s the closest I could come.

      • singleseatfighterpilot

        Thank you, Julia. That works for me.

  2. Beautifully said Julia. It conjures up many fond memories. :o)

    • Thank you, Patricia!

  3. Good morning, Julia! When I was growing up, we were also allowed one ride at the state fair each year. I always chose the roller coaster. Do you remember the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin? Toward the end, the grandmother remarks on how there’s two kinds of people, some who like the ferris wheel (I think? Or it might have been a merry-go-round) and those that like the roller coaster. Apparently I’m a roller coaster person. Hmmm. Maybe there are three kinds of people! Have a great weekend!

    • Susan, I don’t mind the newer metal coasters (especially the ones that go upside down) but those rattly wooden coasters strike me as the preliminary step toward orthopedic surgery! Last time I rode one I felt as if my entire spinal column had been thrown out of alignment, especially my neck! But I do love the Merry-go-round, especially now that I’m a wimpy old lady!

  4. raynard

    Julia you might have not know, but I’m no fan of” amusement parks. I did the Six Flags and Kings Dominion and State Fairs.. “I wasnt” amused’ lol. Now a good old fashion game of Pac Man , Trivial Persuit, Now you’re talking.. I confess I did go horseback riding once and ” Boogy Boarding while in Hawaii. All the walking I do daily, maybe I need some tips form you on how to enjoy lemonade or ice tea on a porch or pattio. Wait! I dont like being on display and being from NYC, I never walked down the street eating a hot dog or slice of pizza lol. Be blessed

    • WOW, did you never eat off one of those legendary food carts? Not even Italian Ices? Maybe those are just for tourists. If so there must be plenty of them to keep all those guys in business. I am no fan of amusement parks either, except for the Disney parks, which I place in a category all their own. I used to like Six Flags when I was young, but as with so much else that is new and thrilling in the beginning, it all seems passe to me now. If there was a park that had only virtual reality or simulator rides such as “Soaring” or “Mission: SPACE” I would be a huge fan.

  5. bobmielke

    Each Summer break our small town of O’Fallon, Illinois has a festival. It was on a scale for little kids so ferris wheels were a bit too big and scary. There were carousels and bumper boats but everything was on ground level.

    As I grew into my teens Six Flags had me experiencing the Big Boy Rides. I never really took a fancy to them. As an adult I took my kids and family to Disneyland in Florida. We were violently thrown around by the Runaway Train on an old wooden rollercoaster. It was definitely not my cup of tea as I’m a big guy and my wife was less than half my weight. I was involuntarily slammed into her during the rides to the point that she was black & blue for a week. Riding a motorcycle for 35 years and over 500,000 miles is enough of a thrill for me.

    • Hey, I didn’t know you were from O’Fallon! My friend lived there for several years while her husband was based there with the Air Force. That Thunder Mountain ride you must be referring to is, oddly enough, the only wooden coaster I actually like, but people have been killed on it, as on most such thrill rides – a well-kept secret. I’m scared of motorcycles so reading where you say that you find them less jarring than an amusement park ride reminds me of Eric saying he fears the Ferris Wheel after years of flying one of the most dangerous and unforgiving aircraft in the history of flight (the F-100). But I agree that it’s NO FUN being tossed around in an out of control mechanical people-shaker. Some people love it though, including our son Matt.

      • bobmielke

        I attended Cathedral Grade School until they replaced it with Althoff High School. I graduated from Althoff in 1967. I used to cut grass at Scott Air Force Base outside of O’Fallon & Belleville. Iwas born in Belleville, Ill in 1949 at St Elizabeth’s Hospital. It’s a small world.

        • It really is, and getting smaller all the time. Not to mention more crowded!

  6. Sheila

    Julia, this is really beautiful; your special way with words is such a gift! πŸ™‚ I always loved going to the fair in September and the rides were always fun THEN! August really is the month of change and one we look forward to. We (Garden City local residents) actually have a get together to “Reclaim Our Beach” at the end of summer. I hope you’re looking forward to a relaxing weekend! πŸ™‚

    • Sheila, I’ll bet everyone in Garden City is looking forward to that glorious WHOOSH downward, away from the heat and crowds! Maeve Binchy has written some wonderful books about a seacoast town in Ireland, and how different life is during “beach season.” Thanks so much for your kind words about my writing. I don’t know why I’m so hypergraphic but I do know that if I go very long without writing I get out of kilter. Hope you have a great weekend!

  7. Thank you Julia. So serenely depicted.

    • You’re welcome, Alan, I’m happy you like it!

  8. Great post, Julia. What a delightful quote. The first week of August has different memories for me. I like this one so much better.

    California Adventure is my favorite, too. You’ve described it beautifully. Don’t you just love that little blast of orange at the end?

    • Oh, yes! I loved that ride so much that I bought the CD just to get the music that plays while “Soaring.” We would always try to get in the front row so that the illusion was even more perfect. I’m glad you liked the post – I am sorry this week is so hard for you, but I understand why it would be.

  9. Now I find those high and fast-moving rides very scary. I have never been on a roller coaster. πŸ™‚ This is the second half of our vacation. I am enjoying every moment of it “before whooshing down to” the hectic non-stop working days.

    • Bindu, my sister called today and she was telling me her school starts back next week. How the summer flies! I hope you do enjoy every single minute until then. I may never get on another roller coaster again and if I don’t, I won’t miss it!

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