Summer’s End

reflections on the looming equinox, the harbinger of gray skies

Some parts of America experience nearly endless summer, year in and year out, like southern California, southern Nevada, and Florida. However, it’s a remarkable experience as well, to live in a place where the unofficial end of summer is almost always accompanied by the arrival of seasonal transformations. Some years, including this one, nature’s clock seems to have uncanny accuracy.

This year, just as Labor Day weekend has arrived, the picture book clear blue skies that have provided magnificent backdrops for activities like outdoor photography this summer have been replaced, at least during the Labor Day weekend, by overcast gray skies, an occasional drizzle, and still enjoyable daytime temperatures in the lower seventies rather than the upper eighty degree days that preceded them in July and August. There is something almost comforting and cozy about the change though, even if the changing season means that plans for activities like some remaining summer photography projects will have to be squeezed into whatever sunny days nature has left in store before the equinox. It’s ironic that the relaxing sensation of the late summer’s drizzle is counterbalanced by a sense of urgency that there is limited time left to complete projects that are only possible beneath a searing summer sun and its accompanying cloudless deep blue skies.

In addition to the drizzle, it is intensely apparent that the sun isn’t rising as early in the morning and it isn’t setting as late in the evening anymore either. Even the angle of the sun, its compass direction at any given time of day, has begun to change rapidly each day, as the days grow shorter and shorter toward the solar equinox. The shortening days also give rise to surprise that summer has seemed to slip by in a flash, in between plans for activities that are impossible once the changing seasons have changed the weather with them.

It’s astonishing as well, that all these annual changes, the seasonal metamorphoses, are the product of divine astronomical forces of amazingly enormous proportion. It never ceases to be mindboggling that the very existence of the seasons is the product of the confluence of astronomical factors that took billions of years to evolve. In that context, just to be a human being, alive now, seems like divine provenance in and of itself.

Because of billions of years of universal evolution, humanity exists, riding on the giant spaceship known as earth, a huge water covered rock, hurtling through outer space at nearly 67,000 mph. Every living being on the planet travels 580 million miles every year, even if standing still, while a passenger on the orbiting spaceship that is earth. But spaceship earth isn’t quite upright as it simultaneously spins on its tilted axis, without which the seasons wouldn’t exist, as every living thing on earth experiences them. There is something truly astonishing that so many aspects of earth’s existence are necessary to make the miraculous result possible that every human being experiences and grows to know throughout a lifetime as the seasons.

It seems like one aspect of living well though, is working well with the ever changing phenomenal qualities of nature’s seasonal rhythms, as though dancing in step with the solar system’s subsonic music. But as summer quickly slips away for now, to be absent for months behind the clouds that accompany autumn and winter’s shorter days, the enjoyment of it, and of its end, certainly does seem worth taking the time to appreciate, at least in thought for a moment, as nature shifts the rhythm of its celestial music, before hurrying back to work on everything that needs completing before the many months of cooler rainy days arrive, and they bring with them their own wondrous but very different qualities too, along with anticipation of summer’s return next year.

Marilyn Perry