summer, your days are numbered

It has become one of those pleasant, little, semi-annual surprises since taking up residence in the Pacific Northwest. It is that one day when one realizes that a change of season is coming. It is sudden; it is as abrupt as the flip of a switch. It jolts you out of whatever you were contemplating while walking. After that moment, “you just know”.

The switch from summer to fall has always been visual for me. It was signified by the rolling in of clouds after a long string of consecutively cloudless summer days. After that point, subsequent sunny days would shine with that autumnal shine: cooler, crisper, more filtered, and at a shallower angle. This has usually happened in middle to late September, though. This year, however, the cue came earlier. And it was not visual.

I was walking down 35th Street from downtown Fremont to the Aurora bridge. I remember seeing a few leaves on the ground as a bicyclist whizzed past me going the other way. As this happened, and moments before I turned the corner up Troll Avenue, I caught a whiff. The smell that I picked up was solidly that of autumn. It was dry and crinkly. It was also cooler and more definite, unlike the fuzzy, lazy smells of summer that waft over on an occasional breeze. I though of wearing jackets and sweaters; I wanted apples.

Now, my sinuses being what they are — chronically conjested — this was a big deal. If my substandard olfactory sense could pick autumn out of the rich, full-bodied Fremont airspace, then there must be something there. And it seems that I wasn’t the only one who noticed… and that I noticed it yesterday as well. I was going to write a quick post about it for Seattlest, the metroblog for which I have recently become a contributor but I was beaten to the punch. Fellow Seattlest, Courtney wrote the following:

Degrees of Change
originally posted 25 August 2006 at http://www.seattlest.com/archives/2006/08/25/degrees_of_change.php

Temperature is a skilled communicator, even in small doses. Under normal circumstances, minute changes we might not notice are essential for sparking bird migration; more extreme fluctuation is the very heart of concerns regarding what long-term havoc climate change could wreak on our environment.

Yesterday evening while walking our dogs, we tuned into temperature. The quality of the air had shifted, but nearly imperceptably so. Our neighbhorhood was bustling with the usual activity of football practice in Judkins Park and as we set out, it felt like any other day. Twenty minutes into the walk, as we turned to head back home, facing towards the western view of city and sound, time slowed down by just one tick. The sound of our own footsteps, clicking of dog nails on concrete, echoes of yelling children, and bike gears whizzing by were all simultaneously amplified and stretched out. The park we bisect almost daily, while shaped in high relief by setting sun against crisp blue sky, softened as we passed through; we were cushioned, comforted.

Perhaps just one degree colder, and we’d have thrilled at the familiarly nostalgic feeling of fall encroaching, but strangely this wasn’t the familiar pang we know so well which accompanies that seasonal shift. Not fully realized yet, this was a stage before the annual recognition of the snap which we’d never detected before. Soon, we thought, it is going to feel like that point where we recognize fall is coming. But not quite yet.

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