Friday, June 6, 2014
During summer's warmer days, I gaze out at the woods around me as through a fog. Heat, particularly with high humidity and dew point, is tangible, settling on every growing thing like a veil. Some days, it's almost as though each leaf droops and sags beneath the burden, much as I do, as we both long for relief in the form of rain or a more northerly breeze. And when it comes, we rejoice together, they, lifting their faces once more toward the sun, and I lifting my hands, closing my eyes, and allowing the blessed relief to wash over me.
Even as the long hot summer days linger, I know of what they foretell. More and more, I'm hearing the sound of chainsaws as braver souls nearby begin work on their woodpiles even as the sun's merciless rays bear down upon them. For this is the best time to cut wood and leave it to dry while the days are still long, the heat intense, and the wind warm. More than halfway now through July, more than half of yet another year is behind us, and even these warm uncomfortable days do not linger quite as long as the earth slowly begins its downward tilt.
Summers are warmer, because the sun hits the surface of the earth in the Northern hemisphere more directly and for a longer period of time during each 24-hour period. Conversely, it's colder in the winter because the same rays strike the earth at a shorter more extreme angle, and the hours of daylight are fewer. None of this happens as a result of the earth's position in the galaxy but because its axis, which is relatively perpendicular during the warmer months, dips by about 23.5 degrees, orienting different parts of the earth toward the sun. After the Summer Solstice, or the first day of summer in the north, the earth gradually moves in its orbit in a counterclockwise path that eventually orients the southern hemisphere toward the sun, with a gradual progression toward an eastern orientation, or Winter Solstice, when all of North America and most of South America are experiencing winter.
In areas that experience the four seasons distinctly, it sometimes seems that one might last longer than another or that their progression from year to year isn't consistent, but that's not the case at all. Weather events have a lot to do with our perception of the length of the seasons, while, behind the scenes, all is progressing according to nature's schedule, one over which we have absolutely no control.
So though these warm days are draining and often uncomfortable, they never last forever, and I set my sights on the respites that nature provides us here in the north that other parts of the country aren't privy to. At some point, the wind always shifts from south to north, the haze clears and once again, each leaf and twig is visible in the sharp crisp light. It's a yearly progression, with each season unfolding from the preceding one, and each ending as imperceptibly as it began, their endings and beginnings lost beneath this endless canopy of trees and sky.