Sunday, September 13, 2015

Late Summer Turning

I get a twinge each year around September.  A muted voice inside of my bones says the season will be changing soon.  I'm not sure why it's telling me.  It seems that a couple of hundred years or more spent indoors in an industrialized culture might be long enough to make the inner consciousness of your physical body forget about seasonal preparations.  Or maybe a handful of generations in modernity isn't enough to kill the internal calendar composed by thousands of years of agronomic ancestry.

The middle of Arizona is like a glass bowl full of dust placed under a heat lamp.  There's no reason to be worrying about fall in September when living on the cracked earth of one of the hottest deserts in the world.  Still, every year I anticipated a subtle turn that never came.  The feeling would make its way to my thoughts and, for an unconscious moment, I'd allow myself expect it: autumn.  Cold mornings, dark windows behind jarring alarm clocks, changing leaves, and that feeling one gets when it's cold outside but warm inside.  

The summer is long in Texas, too, but it's not that long - the sudden tapering of summer that I sensed a couple of weeks ago when first attempting to write this is real now.  A cool breeze drifts through the hot sunshine, and mornings are not quite cool, but they're no longer warm.  It'll take another month for it to get here, but it's coming.

I guess I just don't like warm weather, because over the past couple of months, I've slunk into something closely resembling the seasonal affective disorder I joked about when living in Arizona.  I really did sleep longer and do less over the summer.  I kept the blinds drawn and the television on.  Texas' summer is far less punishing overall, but in place of the soul-evaporating, dry heat is a constant, pervasive steam.  Mere moments spent outdoors will warrant a shower.  The air will stand and thicken, breezeless, so that you can feel the water vapor as you pass through it, and it lays sticky on your skin.  All movement is exhausting.  The lethargy and physical pain I experienced after exertion had me worried at first.  Had my metabolism simply ended at 32?  Was I dying of something?  Had I somehow gained hundreds of pounds of weight and not noticed it?  I felt like crawling up the stairs to my apartment after leisurely evening walks in my neighborhood.  I hadn't yet researched the great imposition humidity wreaks on the body, particularly when one is used to humid conditions of 8%.  In Austin, a nice day is under 50%.

I began to view the city differently.  To turn, unmoved, from beautiful views that I'm still not quite used to.  Although the creeks are dry and the toads are gone (dead? or moved), the trees and grasses are lush and the greenery hasn't vanished.  Still, the film of humidity smears the beauty of the city, and I began to complain openly of everything that isn't good.  The traffic, the housing market, the obsession with barbecue, my hatred of random live music and ironic mustaches.  Everything was wrong, wrong!  I began my research for a move to upstate NY.

As soon as the heat was cut through with the first cool breezes of autumn, barely recognizable but making all the difference, my mood changed.  The first coolness of the season is thrilling to me, and fills me with a sense of awe and potential.  Driving with the windows down, or leaving the door open for the cat to roll in a patch of cool sun make incredible differences in my quality of life.  Fall in Texas looks like any other time in Texas, but it feels different already.  Everything feels more beautiful, more charming.  Bluejays wing around while deer cavort in tiny preserves tucked unexpectedly around the city.  It's a bit like when Snow White woke up.

Enduring a new summer has given me perspective on my ideal landscape.  If I still believed in reincarnation, I'd think I was looking for something I lost: mountains and forests, and not the kind you find west of the Mississippi.  Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York feel like a return for me.  

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