Arts & Life

Prime Time – Notebook, September 2010

Written by Steve Kennedy | Aug 19, 2010 3:01 PM

No one has ever consulted me to help custom-design the climate, but if asked, here's what I would propose as a reasonable progression of seasons: Spring and fall would continue to last three months each, but all three spring months would be May, and all three fall months October. Winter would get one month of slam-bang cold and snow (though there would be no freezing rain or sleet). The other five months would be September.

If there is no high summer in my ideal climate, it is because September is really summer enough for me. Perhaps it's the memory of the recent heat waves, but for my part, any temperature higher than is possible in September is not one I necessarily need to experience.

In fact, taking both the days and nights into account, September can be plenty warm, as well as plenty cool. It can top 90 or dip into the 30s. It is time to turn the air conditioner off and throw open the windows. Morning, evening or even noon walks are no longer as likely to be passed up because it is still too hot or already too cold. The fields and woods are still green, flowers are blooming, and in the town square, the fountain is still spraying. You can still use the cheap "Protects down to +32°" windshield washer fluid in your car.

Before my kids were old enough to go to school, September used to be prime time for taking vacations. It was more comfortable weather for traveling than July or August, although I occasionally went too far north or south and sweltered in Florida or shivered under a frost-covered tent in the northern Pennsylvania mountains.

It's the off-season, with all its advantages and disadvantages. At the state parks, programs and services that haven't already been eliminated for budgetary reasons are shut down for the season. Some tourist sights and attractions have reduced hours, so when you decide to take a day-trip, especially during the week, you'd better check the website or the AAA book first.

But some things actually become more accessible in the off-season, sometimes simply as a result of the tilt of the Earth's axis. The water at the shore is warmer than it was on Memorial Day, hotel rates are cheaper, and the beaches are less crowded. It's still sunny, but you don't need as much sun block for those gentler oblique rays, nor do you sweat it away, since it's no longer oppressively hot. Everywhere, there are fewer crowds and shorter lines at places that would be off-putting a few weeks earlier.

Passing the equinox partway through September means the sun is down more than it's up, but you don't notice it yet, particularly, because dawn and twilight add some light at either end of the day, and our toying with the clock doesn't so much save daylight as shift it to the evening, making it feel more like summer than it really is.

Of course for two-thirds of September, it really is summer, with many of the better trappings thereof. You can still wear shorts — most of the time. You can sit and read on the patio and dine outdoors in your yard, or at restaurants if you are lucky enough to have that option in your town (I did last September but do not this year). You can still do gardening — planting bulbs if, unlike me, you have enough foresight and organization. Or you can pick apples or harvest the last of those tomatoes that so recently overwhelmed you. You'll look back on them fondly in January, when your salads contain objects from the supermarket that are labeled as tomatoes but are more reminiscent of red-colored Styrofoam in taste and texture.

You may still have to mow the lawn, although less and less frequently. You can go to high school sporting events without taking a blanket, gloves, scarf and knit cap, as I, for one, will dutifully do toward the end of the season. And as I pass the sparkling town fountain, I know it will be turned off by the end of the month. Even as I enjoy what still is, I am conscious of what is coming, and that since I am not in charge of the climate, September will not last five months, but one. I plan to enjoy it.

Published in Notebook

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