A Softer Light: Summer’s Not Over Yet

It’s happening: we’re rapidly losing our long hours of languid summer sunshine. The last few mornings, when the alarm goes off at 6, it’s still sunrise rather than nearly-full daylight. This morning, the sun loomed as a big red ball to the east.

And at day’s end, the light is coming to an abrupt halt much quicker. A month ago, I could wait until 7:30, even 8 PM before heading out for my run, assured of plenty of daylight. Last night, I got home from my run at 7:45 and the front porchlight was already on. (It’s on a timer that automatically adjusts for sunset.)

The other night, leaving work at 5, a coworker commented on the light. “It’s different,” he said, looking at the way the sunlight ducked between the skyscrapers. “Has it always been like this at 5?”

“It’s nearly fall,” I replied. “Not long and it will be dark when we leave.”

I hate the darkness of the winter. I hate leaving the house in the dark and returning home in the dark, when entire workweeks can go by without ever feeling the sun on my face. But in some ways, I’m more focused in winter. When it’s light out, I want to be outside, running or biking or just lounging in the yard with a book. As long as it’s light outside, the day seems full of possibility and promise. There’s no rush to get things done. In winter, I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on the gorgeous, fleeting weather. Another gray, slushy day? I’d rather be inside working, thank you.

But now, as the sunlight softens and falls farther to the horizon earlier in the evening, fall is coming. The free evening concerts at Wing Park are over, the last one rained out. Kids are already back to school, and I just learned I’ll be joining them in a few weeks. We’ve had a few cooler nights when I’ve had to wake in the middle of the night to close the bedroom windows.

Several years ago, the Tribune’s Mary Schmich quoted Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” in a column.  I clipped it and stuck it on my fridge, and notice it many mornings as I’m waiting for the coffee to brew. (Schmich quoted it again in a recent column, but I’ll stick with my yellowed, brittle copy.)

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

This summer’s nearly over, but there’s still time for a stroll through the fields or a trip to the farmer’s market. It’s already been a great summer, but let’s go out on a high note.

What’s left on your must-do list for summer? I still have to break 30 minutes in a 5k, and I want to spend more time in the backyard, with wine, after dinner. I may need to invest in some anti-mosquito tiki torches to make that one happen.

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3 responses to “A Softer Light: Summer’s Not Over Yet

  1. Beautiful post! The light is definitely fading, I feel it most waking up in the dark these mornings. But there is something truly magical about the early fall golden light as it hits the buildings downtown as I ride in on my bike – no other time of year has sunrise light quite like late August.

    I fear that my summer to-do list is nearly as long as it was at the beginning. *sigh.* And I’m looking for that sub-30 5K time still, too – next shot at it is next weekend in Skokie – we shall see.

  2. I agree with the “magical” Jenn – late August/early September have the best light of the year. It’s not the extra harsh July light, nor is it the weak winter light. My bedroom windows face east, over the Fox River, and I love watching sunrise this time of year, as I’m waking up. I have a big mirror across from the windows, so the room is flooded with reflected sunlight. Best way to wake up.

    You’ll get your sub-30 time! You ran a half marathon for goodness sakes!

  3. Pingback: Embracing the Seasons | The Adventures of Elginista

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