Thursday is the sun’s last appearance, the forecast warns. Winds will blow and enough rain will come to erase the sizable deficit of the driest known summer. There’s a sense of the final countdown: these are the last hours of sun. Get them while you can.
Fall light cuts through the smoky marine murk lingering from July. Air sags, needing bundling up and throwing in the washer, but in the late afternoon it has an extra brilliance, that glow of light in the bit ocean city.
I’ve been tired of the sun, to be honest. I welcome the light and warmth and realize now how it affects my mood, but the seasonal catering to it makes the Pacific Northwest feel like a battered wife: we will do anything for it, grovel to it, accept everything as wrong as coming from ourselves just to get it to stay. The whole place takes off for mountains and lakes and beaches, huffs up and down trails, goes out camping, throw our arms open in every way because we know it will go. I’ve been hiking for this very reason: the sun will go sometime and it’s a lot less fun in the rain. It’s the dark side of sunworship. Is this healthy?
I don’t know. I know I like the leaves. Even a dozen years gone from the sweaty blank disappointment of Texas autumn I still thrill to see the leaves change to real colors, the evenings turn crisp, the light fall away to certain omnipresent dark. Autumn light conveys a purity, the reverse of summer’s tumescence, the true start of spring’s renewal in all the acorns and maple spinners and smashed fruit smearing the streets.
We wear jackets against the glow far more than the cold. A good walk makes me steam a little as the light has plenty of heat still. It has a lunar quality, that same bladelike intensity that lit the astronauts hopping on the Moon. Distance is foreshortened. Everything is very clear even though it isn’t.
Autumn was such a treasure growing up that I still feel that lightness, the release of heat from the Earth. Everybody back to school, back to work, out of that holding pattern in the last weeks of August waiting for something to happen. I remember that autumn after college when I sat at home and mowed lawns with a friend, waiting for graduate school. The days were so bright, winding down so gradually, the far-off to-be bang waiting in January. This autumn has been like that: bright, high, the mornings coming later and the nights sooner. Friday night I went to free music in the hipster part of town. I parked off 15th among the same maples and near the same playground as nearly a year ago, that Wednesday when I saw Dana Gould. It felt like college, though different, always different: no sense of release from school of work, no sense of something earned, no fear, the dimmest anxious stirrings. I didn’t wish anything was different. Icelandic rockers with their keyboards in the fuzzy dark was just fine: it was warm and close and dark and a little loud, and just fine.
We’ll have a new bridge soon. The city’s website is happy to announce this “major” arterial will be only closed a year. The bridge came down far faster, a tangled wreck for a week, then most of the year quiescent, just mounds of dirt pushed around, a few guys walking around. I wondered what they were doing. A Big crane with what looked like a mixer attachment dug holes and spun in them. The website explained the earth was being stabilized. Nothing to see, no action, no change. Last winter and spring the bus rumbled around the hole.
Something happened under the earth. It’s exponential now, the new bridge launching itself at an almost unbelievable pace. So it is with many quiet times. So it is with us. I feel like we launch each fall.