This weekend, I noticed that the heat wave broke. Earlier, we had had the luxury of not noticing, indoors in front of our two-week-old air conditioner -- but while helping firestrike move, in the heat of the day, in the middle of the Central Valley, the conclusion was inescapable. It was hot, but not ridiculous.
Elsewhere, friends are complaining about three-digit temperatures, or heat waves in cities that have never heard of "air conditioning"; clearly, summer has not yet left us. But here, the heat has receded. It has come and gone all season -- mostly stayed -- and now, as we trek into a new month, our blunting of heat's edge has taken on a sort of melancholy permanency. It doesn't help that, barely two days into August, our local pagan circle has already celebrated the first of its harvest rituals.
Summer is my favorite season. It is a season of fire -- and wherever life's path may take me, I am a dragon, and fire is my element. Summer is a season of action, of travel, of adventure; it stirs a wanderlust, fueling the flames of the soul. Even when it overwhelms my body (with temperatures in the range of, as the local patois puts it, "stupid hot"), it keeps my mind in motion; I am at my most productive, most fulfilled, most driven when my body's rhythms must keep pace with early mornings and endless afternoons. Around the Solstice, with twilight lasting past 9 p.m., with the sun greeting me no matter how late I leave the office, life feels natural -- I am finally fully in the flow of time.
Summer is also my season of birth, and July always brings with it a stretch of reflection on time's passage. I've been increasingly unsettled this year, and as the heat wave has fallen away and the end of the season looms, it has become obvious why: this moment in time, as summer falls away, is reflective of not just the season's passage but that of my own life.
We are born in winter, grow up in spring -- timidly pushing our way through snows and rains to blossom in the glow of lengthening days -- and come into full flower in glorious summer. There is endless time, days of unquenchable energy, to fuel any desire we dare to explore. Nothing is outside our reach. The heat of our lives is intense; passion drives us, and we dance, whirling in its grasp, barely thinking to breathe as we hurtle ourselves through the season.
Then something reminds us to pause, to look up. Perhaps it's the incrementally lengthening nights, the easing of the relentless heat, a few more dried-up streams as the last of the snow melts off of the mountains. The world is still alive, vibrant, endless, but we have a bit more comfort with which to pause and reflect, and it's not quite so simple to charge across the landscape in endless motion.
In midsummer, you are aware of these things as distant sensations, tickling at the edges of your consciousness. You've lost 15 minutes of sunlight per day; what of it? There is still so much summer left!
And then summer starts tumbling toward its end. Those 15 minutes turn into 45. The heat tempers. You're still in a season of motion, but there is no way to ignore the change in the air. Anything is still possible, but there is a growing sense that time is short, that soon you will be moving into a new phase, and that you could slip over that threshold at any time and not even realize it until hindsight kicks in. Perhaps you already have? A low-grade panic begins to whisper into your ear; is there anything you still wished to accomplish with this season that has not yet been addressed?
Part of you says, that's silly. You can range around the hills, sometimes, straight through to October; the rainy season is still months off. Part of you welcomes the change; as your world cools, some journeys become easier.
And part of you is screaming, clawing desperately for purchase as possibilities landslide away down the center of the hourglass.
I still have plenty of heat left -- both in the seasonal sense and the lifetime sense. But sooner or later, the dog days will shade into the long Indian summer.
I wish I could say that I was prepared for the change. But time will drift on regardless.