It happens every year at about this time without fail in this part of the world. The heavy oppressive damp days of July and August descend upon us, and for days that sometimes grow into weeks, the air waves are filled more often than not with the sound of air conditioners and fans running. The sound becomes commonplace after awhile, and the silence almost deafening on days when we must turn them on early as the sun aims its hot eye once again upon us.
Without warning, the wind direction shifts from south or east to west and north, and we are refreshed by the cooler air from Canada that banishes the high summer haze from the landscape. Freed from the ephemerous curtain that hangs over everything for most of July and sometimes into August, objects become clearer, more sharply defined, colors brighter and richer, and we can see again. And then one day, again without much fanfare, there it is. The decidedly altered slant of the light, both in early morning and late afternoon, signaling once again the earth's slow but inexorable tilt away from the sun's intensity. It is almost as it if one day, the light and heat are fully upon us in their insistent mid-year way, and then the next, they have turned their attentions away from us to focus on something else besides baking us and coaxing sweat from every pore. Shadows fall sooner than they did, and birds no longer sing into the twilight hours.
It is once again coming upon my favorite time of year-early autumn. Not a huge fan of heat and humidity, I welcome the cooler drier nights of this end-of-summer month. Just knowing the evening and night will be cooler makes the day's heat more tolerable, and that this month is a gateway of sorts to that glorious season of multicolored tapestries and still mild but bug-free days. There is no question that this cool-down invigorates me and makes me want to get back out there roaming and seeing what I've been missing these last few torrid weeks.
Butterflies congregate on flower shrubs, and birds busy themselves seeking out the plump seed heads of many plants and some species of trees. My little chipmunk friend has been running back and forth across the porch these last few days, most likely foraging for and storing away supplies for the coming cold months. I've started putting bread crumbs out for him, and they are disappearing. That tiny creature keeps me grounded and connected internally to the wild places. We share a common love, it and I, for the places untrodden by the rest of the world.
At night, the window fan pulls in much cooler air now, and a very large cricket managed to sneak its way into the kitchen one day last week. It emerged in another room today, so I gently picked it up and redeposited it outside where it hopped away instantly. I hear its kind loudly now each night, one of the most familiar and comforting sounds of late summer. Its distinctive chatter, which it produces by rubbing its wings together, sometimes manages to transcend the other noises around here, coming at me from the grass beneath my bedroom window, and I find myself listening for it now at night when I manage to resist thoughts of those other things that should be consuming me but don't quite make it across the vast fields of my mind.
The end of August approaches, and right behind it, a month of beginnings and endings. Children will be returning to school, yellow buses will be rolling once again, corn fields will be shorn of their late gold, and early apples will spill from baskets at roadside stands. The seasonal shift is like an invisible wave that I have been riding now for several decades, and it is a journey I never tire of. This is the best part of the ride, when the air sweetens from the rich aroma of the season's fullness, the days shorten and the light reaches me from a different direction. For a few days, I'll see the sun rise through those trees across the street, and then one day, it won't be there. It will have slipped behind buildings and I'll miss its first peek above the urban horizon.
Through the still-green trees, this closest of morning stars scatters its brilliance among the branches through leaves more than willing to help split its light, and I find myself wishing quietly upon it as I would upon any other more distant orb as it reveals to me another new day.