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Sumer is a-goin out

September 15, 2011

The weather has been mercurial of late. We caught a drizzle from the edge of Irene; some time later, the deluge from Tropical Storm Lee flooded out the county roads. Colder and more prolonged than the tropical downpours I experienced in Central America this summer, last week’s rains left the sidewalks awash and raised the creek levels to five feet of gushing muddy water.

Several glorious days followed, as if the weather trolls couldn’t quite decide if it was summer or fall or so threw together the best parts of both: blue skies and ambrosial air, sunlight falling through leaves, crisp wind dashing in my window and the patter of rain through trees at night when I’m up too late doing problem sets, cool mornings and warm bright days.

I have a spot by the creek where I like to sit after class. Leaves crunched under my feet when I went there yesterday; the maples are dropping theirs early because of fungus. The squirrel that normally flicks its tail and chitters at me was missing; I wonder where it has gone. I sat under the brown-spotted canopy and breathed in sunlight, listened to the creek (down since the flooding), watched an ant navigating across the litter-strewn earth and a wasp tickling my knee. The wasp made it easy to sit still for meditation; the mosquitoes made it harder.

Linnaeus, who travelled down the Tarradalen in Swedish Lapland in 1732, is supposed to have said “If not for the mosquitoes, this would be paradise on earth.” He must not have been there in the fall, when low nighttime temperatures kill the mosquitoes and paint the tundra with a blaze of color, the ruska, like a perpetual sunset — though perhaps then he would have complained of the icy rain and the frost that encrusts your tent in the morning. His comment about the mosquitoes is, I think, true of many places. As I sat absorbing the beauty of the day and trying to keep the mosquitoes from absorbing the nourishment of my blood, I tried, as I did during summers on the tundra, to appreciate that mosquitoes are an essential part of the ecosystem and food web of birds and fish that I find so beautiful.

This is an easy thought to have while sitting indoors writing a blog post, but I admit it does not help very much when your ankles are itching horribly.

Soon enough the mosquitoes will be gone for the year. Yesterday, only tar-spotted maple leaves had fallen; this morning, the birch tree on my block had turned yellow and scattered leaves across the sidewalk. I walked to class through a drizzle; fog blurred the green valley, and though the sun returned this afternoon, the air carries an edge that it didn’t before. The crickets still chirp at night here, but way up north, the ruska has already come to the tundra, and I hear the trees have started to change in Maine.

In summer I sometimes feel blindingly alive; winter makes me alert, like I can reach down into the stillness of time and find things that have been lost or never discovered. Fall has always brought changes: new schools, new people, new ideas. This year especially, I find myself contemplating transitions: where I’m coming from, where I’m going, what I want out of life and how I might try to get it. I am in a very different place from where I was five or even two years ago; I can see how I got here, but I would not have expected it. And yet in some ways, I feel more like myself than I ever have.

Summer to fall. The boundary isn’t clear, though I’ve been feeling hints of the change since August. Becoming is weird that way: it happens in continuous scattered bits, like watching sunset in the gloaming of a cloudy evening — you never quite find the transition from light to dark, and yet the sun does set. Time is turning, the sun is setting, and the coming night is full of mysteries.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2011 1:40 pm

    I found your blog from the comment you left on my own blog, and I am certainly glad I did! You have some excellent posts here, Gleomstapa, and I look forward to reading more.

    So much of what you wrote in this post about fall and feeling things change in your life is much the way I am feeling right now as well. Fall is also a time of transition for me, with starting a new set of classes and meeting new people at school, yet this year it is my last semester and soon even bigger changes will be happening in my life, which is both exciting and terrifying. And I also look back at where I was 5 years ago, and I am amazed at how much I have changed, even though all along I felt like I was making no progress at all.

    Changes happen slowly and subtly just as the sun moves gradually across the sky during the day, until suddenly we look up and realize that the sun has set and everything is different.

  2. September 27, 2011 9:15 pm

    Thanks for stopping by, Heather, and for your kind words! It is funny how changes sneak up on you without your noticing, isn’t it? I’m also in my last year, and it totally is scary … but then, with the changes there comes so much possibility that I hadn’t even considered. And maybe not quite everything is different: the earth remains, after all.

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