Sunday, August 30, 2009

8.28.09. The curtain falls

It feels like the day the circus left town. Cool, cloudy, silent.

The temperature is in the sixties. It’s been a couple of weeks since we saw sixties once the sun was up. Now when I get out of bed, my first act is to pull down a window. Other factors add to the mood; Kennedy’s death, the end (some say) of an era. But I live closer to home, as I suspect most of us do. Yesterday was dry and clear, low seventies, but almost unbelievably sun-filled. If you walked in the sun you felt warm, even hot, though the humidity had vanished. But today somebody has turned the lights out. I get up, close the windows, and all day walk under a cloud on what feels like an emptied stage. Everyone has stepped back. No one is in a hurry, not the way they were. No one is shouting. School is in the offing according to the calendar of the world; that’s part of it too, I suppose. But every year there is a day when summer is over; hot, sticky weather has slipped off the stage, to the regret of some, the cheers of others; the season is over.

We will miss it, because there is something special about “warm” weather in a cool climate. The state and quality of the air itself, the element we breathe and wear on our skin, is what mean by “it” when we ask, “what’s it like?” (It’s hot; it’s going to rain; it’s lousy again.) The vaguest and most universal references are carried by “it.” Generally, it’s the weather.

For several weeks the weather was warm, sometimes hot, sometimes sticky; now it’s not. It may not be back. Today I salute its passage.

During a spell of classic summer weather you wake up in the morning knowing it’s warm out, the day’s first sensation, because the windows are open and the air feels like – room temperature. You know it’s warm “out,” because “out” is in. Warm out (summer, to most of us) is when room temperature has moved outdoors. It’s easy to be there, it’s easy to be here, it’s easy to be anywhere because everywhere is warm. Something in your body relaxes. Something that wants to be outdoors.

This leads to the phenomenon one of my garden books calls “outdoor living.” A marketing slogan, but there’s something to it.

We make of the outdoors another room. A big room if you have a big space, an ordinary room if the space is small. You decorate it, you make it comfortable. You make a place to sit. A place to eat. A place to cook, if conditions permit.All this works best if the weather is right. So you wait for the weather to get warm. Warm is the desirable state if you are going to sit outdoors. Warm is “natural.” Natural leads you out of doors, and outdoors you have plants. Even if you don’t mean to, you share your space with some kind of plant life, because they just grow there. They come in uninvited.

If you are a gardener, or become one, you want to work with your plants. You want to make a difference. You do something so they do something. There is a cooperative feel, a connection. In some of us the connection “grows” – it’s impossible not to use garden metaphors; they’re everywhere – into something more elaborate, more conscious. We have dirt under our fingernails.

Even if we don’t have the time or the inclination to get our hands dirty in our own outdoor living space, we want to sit on a deck (or a patio, or a lawn, or a flat space of some sort) and stare at something green. We might decide we want some color, a blossom or two, in which case we are lured into that interconnection with the nutritive, generative, “naturally” growing world I referenced above. (This way to the universe!)

All this because the weather is ‘nice.’ It’s the ‘right’ weather to go outdoors. It’s room temperature out there. It’s warm; it’s what we mean by summer. You don’t want to waste a moment of it.