ShiftIn

ShiftIn
Blind Orion Searching for the Rising Sun, Nicolas Poussin, 1658
"I'll relish what little's left …"

In these mid-latitudes, weather comes out of the West, moving opposed to the sun's progress. Little of consequence comes out of the East, which is where we send our weather when we're finished with it or it's finally finished with us. Occasionally, some counter-clockwise rotation kicks in to produce what we call upslope winds. These can spawn magnificent thunderstorms in the Summer and genuine dumpers of snow in the Fall, Winter, and Spring, but these bring nothing in the way of lasting change. They appear and leave almost as quickly, handing the reins back to the West winds again. The only question is always which direction, Southwest or Northwest, will the weather come. Through summer, Southwest winds prevail. One day, a ShiftIn happens and the prevailing winds starts sliding down from Idaho or Montana pulling in Northwestern weather. This ShiftIn comes quickly and never quite fully reverses again that season, a certain sign that autumn's coming, though it might have been a hundred degrees in the shade just the day before.

Real rain, not that second or third-hand stuff passing up and over Arizona from the Gulf of Mexico, but genuine North Pacific rain drenches everything.
We had been teetering on the edge of severe drought before the turnaround came, and though we always grieve a little at the prospect of losing our open window summer, the dog days flee, leaving the scent of new pencils and school clothes and, in a regular year, The Fair. This not being a normal year, I settle to watch the cats insist upon their late afternoon outside constitutional only to watch them flee back inside again, fur sodden and sleek bodies shivering. Max might find my lap inviting as his fur dries and his purr screams. He despises the DawgDays heat, too, and seems confused by the changes overtaking us all. We close windows and open up inside.

All adventure moves East to West, toward the setting sun. Change, like a rising sun, should properly come from over the shoulder, as if sneaking up behind to overtake someone focused upon the opposing horizon. It should at some level take one by genuine surprise, as if unplanned and unanticipated, for change seems at least about discovering and coping, not simply executing any plan. Change intrudes, often rudely, leaving one to crudely respond. Nobody properly judges the elegance of the reaction, just the general direction. Should one head East in response, away from the setting sun, one might reasonably infer that a parody just began and after a few misadventures, our hero will very likely turn back West again, toward their sunset. Inexorable hardly explains any of this, but the slow westward movement seems inescapable. One simply goes with this flow, facing into the predominant wind, accepting that the sun overtakes one as the natural order of business.

I ached so for this summertime to arrive, especially in this year when almost every other event stalled or failed to appear. I opened the windows a little early in anticipation. I hesitated most of yesterday to close them again, shivering stoically rather than relent. From my writing window, I can see the coming events relentlessly sliding down out of Wyoming, promising a twenty degree drop in midday temperatures today, another short summer spent avoiding the neighborhood pool, thinking I'd just look like a whale in there surrounded by splashing kids and their young parents screaming directions nobody listens to, slips away, or convincingly threatens to. It's sock weather now, or will be soon, and I'll retire the two shirts I wear through the summer in favor of sweatshirts and woolens. The cats look out the window as if betrayed. I do not doubt that they'd convinced themselves that outside was exclusively velvet sunsets stalking prey until the day the sky seemed to start stalking them and finding them vulnerable to overtaking, like a mouse or sparrow. Summer might well extend three or four more shortening weeks, but the end seems clearly in focus now. I'll relish what little's left while putting up the long ladder to pull down my hop(e) vine.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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