What My Fingernails Know

photo by rocket ship @

When every fingernail on both of my hands has broken, I know it for sure: summer is over. It happens to me every year over a two or three-day period. It’s a physical thing; parts of me grow brittle and fall off. Long before the leaves ever change to yellow or orange, my body knows: autumn is in the house.

There may be a rogue “warm day” where the temperatures skyrocket into the 70s. Children put on their shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts. Folks celebrate, go for bike rides and walks in the park. And while I, of course, appreciate the warmth, the glow, the sun in my eyes, I know it is all an elaborate ruse.

The corn has been harvested. My clematis has withered and turned brown. And because I am perpetually cold, I am the first to pull out the winter bin, which holds all the hats and scarves and gloves. And once this curly-haired girl puts her hat on, it stays on.

Until April.

My closest friends know this about me – that I wear hats for about half of the year – but I have to explain myself to each new batch of fall students.

I tell them that I am a summer girl, and while I love the change of seasons – apple picking, pumpkin carving, Halloween and snow-skiing – deep in my bones, I will forever long for those years in New Orleans, Louisiana, where summer was eternal and stretched well into November, sometimes beyond.

I tell them that every boy I ever really loved I met in the summer, and it is hard for me to let go of the sun and heat of my youth; that each year, like some weird woman disguised as a tree, I actually feel myself growing a little older, that instead of rings around my trunk to reflect my age, I collect wrinkles around my eyes. Each September, I lose a little of my fashizzle, my sparkle, my shine. It comes back. (It always comes back. It just goes underground and hibernates with the raccoons and the bears for a few months.)

Some of them claim to understand.

(Some of them tell me there is medication I can take.)

Some of them tell me summer isn’t over yet, and that there are sure to be plenty of pretty, warm days ahead.

I don’t care what the calendar says.

My fingernails don’t lie.

It’s fall.

How do you know when summer is really over? Are you ready to let it go?

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49 thoughts on “What My Fingernails Know

  1. Wow. You’re a human calendar! I hope you plan to donate your body to science someday…

    The rest of my family love being cold, but I’m a summer girl, like you. Fortunately, I live near the desert in Southern California, and summer hasn’t shown any signs of leaving yet. I hope it hangs on for a while longer.

      1. Oooh! I love the idea of staying in perpetual summer in your mind. You might have just helped me with my new brand. I’m changing things around, after the big computer crash, and I figured it is time to redo the blog. But like…everything. So things may be cooling down outside, but they may be heating up in here. Thank you! 😉 Both of you!

  2. Beautiful, Renee. I so relate and feel your words. I’m a summer girl, too. I now know its fall cause my feet are no longer dirty from persistent barefootin’!

  3. I am with you, summer is the only time of the year I actually ‘live’ in. The rest, meh. My favorite place in the entire world we lived was Singapore, it was warm all year long, it rained more often in the Winter but it was warm even then. The Orchids bloomed wild everywhere, it was beautiful.

    1. Leanne Shirtliffe (@LShirtliffe) often writes about her time in Thailand, about pushing lotus flowers onto the water, and it just sounds so beautiful. I have a cousin who lived in Singapore for a Fellowship — and stayed. She loved it that much. It must be a fabulous place to live. And I love the idea of perpetual summer. Le sigh.

  4. I’m glad your new computer works. It has great words in it and you put them together nicely.

    I, too, am a summer girl. Over the past few years I have come to like fall, except for the dread of winter that lies just beneath its surface. This year that dread crept in in August and I almost skipped the beauty of September,my favorite month. I’m spending this last week reminding myself to live in September.

    The only boy I ever truly loved I met at a football game in the early fall, but my favorite memories of him are from the summers that followed.

    Nice hat, btw.

    1. Such a lovely post. You should just copy and paste it and make it your entry for today! I don’t exactly “dread” winter, but I don’t love feeling boxed in. Or walking around with my shoulders up around my ears.

      I totally get the boy thing. So we understand each other there.

      Oh, and just you wait until hat season.

      There will be pictures. 😉

  5. Well, this seems obvious, but I start to feel cold all the time. Of course I never used to be this way, only the last few years… like an old man… who’s going to have to start wearing Cardigans… okay, maybe not. But yes, I am always ready to move from summer because fall is the best season!

    1. I was pretty sure you were going to say that fall is best because, you know, that’s the time for harvestin’.

      Still. Can we hold off just a little longer?

      If you need to put on your cardigan & channel Fred Rogers, just do it in the privacy of your own home. 😉

  6. Oh man, it was so cold this morning when I walked outside. I have yet to pull out the winter box, trying to hold on to summer for as long as possible. But when I am wearing sandals and my toes are freezing off, it’s probably time to at least pull out the sox. Grrrr. Then again, I love sweaters, so this time of year is a good thing. I just hate the snow and freezingness that will soon be approaching. I think I need to live in San Diego.

    1. It’s definitely the freezingness thing for me. That is a major turn off. I’d rather laze about in my bathing suit in my barefeet. Now I’m going to be all covered from head to tow in my sleeping bag coat. How did I end up in the Northeast? Seriously? I could have gone anywhere? 😉

  7. Summer ends, I sadden, slightly. Then I remember that winter, and snow is around the corner, and I gladden. I would be perfectly happy with 6 months of 85 degree weather, and 6 months of 25 degree weather. I hate spring, love summer and winter. Fall is decidedly “Meh”.

    1. My husband dies for fall and spring. Seriously,. How did we end up together? I don’t mind the winter if I have a purpose. Like if we are going sking, I know I need UnderArmor and all the accoutrements. It’s just the general coming and going that blows.

      Sure the trees will be pretty for a few weeks, but then the trees will be bare. Give me spring and summer any day. Everyday. Thank goodness we have a trip planned to Florida in December! 😉

  8. I always equate fall with two things:

    1) the beginning of school, the end of summer fun, and homework. Even at age 62, I still feel that.

    2) the corresponding stage of a person’s life, the “autumn of my years” as Sinatra sang it, and yep, I’m 62.

    Don’t like the fall at all, at all. I’m a summer girl too, so to speak!

    1. You can be a summer girl at 100, I think. It’s in the bones. And my bones want more heat. I’m an exothermic, heat seeking lizard. I swear!

      And you can be a summer girl, even if you are a boy! What kind of swim suit do you favor? 😉

  9. Almost all my fingernails broke in the last 2 weeks – I never knew it was a seasonal thing.

    We’re all inspired to write about the change in seasons these days. I’m a girl of fall, but while I’m loving its beauty, I’m mourning the passing of the year.

  10. Wow, I’ve never been able to put my feelings about this time of year so eloquently as you just did, bravo! I sooooo love your writing style.

    I am already cold, I can feel it sinking into my bones where it will stay until around mid-May when I can FINALLY start to thaw. Every morning I wake up and whine “where are my slippers?”

    I do love the other things about fall, the football, pumpkins, apple pie…but why do I have to keep getting older and more wrinkly?? It’s just not fair.

    1. I just started to write a post about my wrinkles. I feel like I’m such a downer. But seriously, it’s like I am turning 45 and someone said: “Let’s shut her down.” My face. What happened to my face? I am seriously considering Botox. If I do it, should I write about it?

  11. I can SO relate to this. For so long, I counted my life by the summers. I just want to hibernate in winter – it’s dark, dreary a lot of the time, and cold. I am not cheery during winter, except for the few weeks around Christmas holidays when the spirit sings. In spring, my heart lifts, by April I am practically giddy with anticipation of the warmth and sunshine to come.

    It’s wonderful to find another summer lover! (My husband hates the heat!)

    Hats look dorky on me. Seriously.

  12. I am also a summer girl! I despise the winters. Why dear lord, do I live in New England?! I know summer has come to an end, when I get weird looks because I am the only one left wearing flip flops! As long as every other part of me is warm, the flippies stay! It is me grasping onto the tail end of summer, not wanting to let go! I flippity flop until the first snowflake flies!

  13. I adore the fall, and I am a curly haired girl, too, but no hats! This does explain what I’ve not noticed before. My fingernails have been molting for three weeks now–peeling and breaking like crazy. I thought it was from washing walls, but if I think back, it is the season 😉

    1. It is tree-turn season. The time where boughs crack, those stupid black walnuts drop off our neighbors tree into our yard… and the fingernails to molt. I don’t hate fall. I just made a great apple pie, but I know what’s coming. And I am sooo not a winter girl. 😉

    1. You are in Colorado. By definition you have to like winter. You have to love the snow. I need pools and little drinks with umbrellas in them — even if I’m just sipping my ginger ale.

      Interesting to know it’s the holidays that break you. 😉

  14. See, even your body is wise! I’m a total fall girl. New school year. New Jewish year. Tall leather boots, leggings, and sweaters. It’s my fall uniform. Summer is not for me. Like you I’m always chilly and I FREEZE inside stores and restaurants in the summer.

    1. Am wearing my Ponti pants and Frye boots right now. This minute.


      I am about to put on a coat and maybe…maybe even fingerless gloves before I hop in the car to errand.

      I’m thinking about it.

      I’ll get back to you. 😉

  15. Autumn is tricky here, because every year it turns chilly and the shadows get longer at the start of September, and everyone says “Well, summer’s over, I guess” and then – every single year – it heats up again a couple weeks later and stays warm for a while. Then it turn cool like a curtain dropping around mid-October.

    But for me, the summer ends when I can’t come home from work and sit outside. If I can still do that, I can still feel like work is secondary and being at home is easy and free.

  16. We were cut from the same cloth. When weather gets cold (I have no use for any temperature that is below the mid-70’s), I find myself missing the warm sun.
    I don’t have much an early warning system like you do, but I want to move back to Brazil any time I can see my breath.

      1. We DO click! Simply put – Brazil is heaven. The beaches, the warmth (Brazilian warmth first, warmth from the sun second), the freedom to let loose, and there is nothing like a thong.

        In Brazil, the slang we use for thongs is “fio dental” [dental floss]. The freedom of expression, freedom with emotion, being open and giving with affection, is all a big part of the Brazil that I love, and it is often reflected in clothing and lack thereof on the beaches.

        “Tô morrendo de saudades do Brasil!”

  17. Living in Sweden, you know summer is over when it starts getting dark far too early. Which in my opinion is around August 20th.

    I handle this by thorough denial, and escape to Mediterranean countries.

  18. Not to sound like a broken record, but I so heart your imagery, Ren-zay (“…that instead of rings around my trunk to reflect my age, I collect wrinkles around my eyes”)!

    And you and your hats actually helped inspire something I’ve got going on on my blog in October 😉

    Summer ending for me is a mental state, not really tied to the weather – it feels over in September, even though I’m not in/teaching school! Maybe because EVERYONE I KNOW is a teacher. Ahem.

  19. I love summer and am also a summer person though as I’ve got older my ability to withstand high temperatures has taken a knock and I am getting light sensitive too… but it’s still a much better season for me than autumn or winter.

    The only hat I wear is for the light rather than the cold, though I’m gonna dig out one of my crocheted hats for this coming winter, I think. The hat, though… not only gets worn out of doors but indoors as our kitchen faces west and if I don’t wear my hat when I’m washing dishes, I can’t see what I’m doing! 😉

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