It’s mid-September, and suddenly we’re all noticing that the sun comes up a lot later and goes down a lot earlier. My friends and I exclaim at how fast the change seems to happen.
Yet the change has been happening ever since the summer solstice in late June. So we humans must be measuring only by certain thresholds.
For me, one threshold is coming outside after an evening meeting that ends at 8:00, and finding twilight gathering at a time when I’m accustomed to finding blue skies and sunshine. Another is waking up at 5:00 AM as usual, but to dark. Then I limber up and do my stair climbing; yet I go outdoors for my power-walk along the lakefront in a pre-dawn twilight, when what I am used to is dawn sunlight.
I just must not have noticed the gradual changes in the sun’s angle to Chicago as long as its light continued to fully brighten my landscapes. But the angle has certainly been steadily changing. The earth revolves around the sun at a rate of 18.5 miles per second (30 km/s) in order to travel hundreds of millions of miles of orbit in a year.
This morning, I was particularly aware of the change as we speed toward the equinox. The mornings have been chilly the last several days. Today that chill may have caused the increase of airy condensation that turned the pre-dawn light intensely fuchsia in the eastern sky as I started toward the lake. I always send up a prayer of thanks for such beauty; I feel so fortunate to be present during its ephemeral occurrence.
I suppose that rosy dawn was what caused me to notice bunches of little red crab apples along the bike path. They must have been there yesterday, but today was my day to see them. And because of them, I started searching the branches of other trees and saw wild cherries forming, not yet fully ripe. Yet it’s early: the trees are still green, the orange trumpet continues its steadfast blooming, though the vines dangle scores of seed pods among the blossoms.
A friend told me recently that she always misses out on the loveliness of fall in her powerful dread of winter. This year she is determined to enjoy the beauty of autumn.
Perhaps that’s a good thing about our human thresholds. We don’t notice fall until it’s upon us, so we get to enjoy summer fully. Now it’s time for awe and wonder at the intermixing of summer and fall, before I start counting autumnal blessings.