Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weather wonder

Cropped version of Cheryl Lunde's photo "Sunset at Ventura Beach," a look at Autumn, California-style. Link.

My sister, a Californian for 37 years, with brief time-out to attend college in Seattle, has a theory about the arrival of Fall in this sunny land. Even with the past 23 years spent mostly on the East Coast, she remembered and boiled the shift of our seasons down to two words: the snap.

The (captial T, capital S) Snap, as I'll call it, happens one morning when those of us who wondered if we'd ever want to see a sweatshirt again wake up and know something is different. We shiver in our tank tops, or even ordinary tee shirts. There is the mildest bite to the air. The digital temperature on the clock above the computer registers somewhere below 73 degrees at 6 a.m. It happened today.

In my memory, there has never been a hint of The Snap earlier than mid-October, and usually later than that. For even a faux, teasing snap (and there has never been such a creature) to arrive on September 3 is unprecedented. Our school used to start around the middle of September and all those new, heavy, frequently itchy clothes had to stay in the closet for ages. Some years, September is the hottest month.

I did not dream or imagine it this morning. It was not the marine layer as our tv newscasters have taken to calling ordinary fog, for in South Pasadena the sky was clear. And there WAS snappy air wafting through the open windows. Pasadena's Sunday forecast, somewhat warmer, generally, than our small town to the south, calls for a high of 94. Nothing cool about that. But as I gathered evidence to support my own personal barometer, downtown Los Angeles this morning was a mere 57 degrees at 6:l5 and was only 70 at 4:l5 p.m. Something, I swear, is afoot.

Since I began waiting, watching for The Snap, I have never known it to arrive, then depart, returning finally six weeks later. The pattern has been, once here, it is here for the duration. I don't know what this means. Our squirrels, as they scale the palms and run the utility wires, look particularly scrawny, their fur far from lush, their tails mere shadows of ordinary fullness. There are no wooly caterpillars for me to observe, classic harbingers of chilly days.

Tomorrow morning I will take another reading, sniff the wind, squint at the sunrise, let my skin inform me. The Snap has been such a reliable sign ever since I was made aware of it, I am disheartened to think it may have turned fickle. The number of things on which we can depend shrinks by the day. I cannot bear to think our stalwart Snap may follow other vanished certainties into oblivion.


Laoch of Chicago said...

I think your theory is that it will be a cold September.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - We have two choices: a cold September or the whole theory is kaput and we have to start over.

T. said...

Up here in Seattle, usually just past mid-August, I notice a day when the light has shifted the slightest degree, and from then on summer is on the decline, regardless of temps.

It always comes with a tinge of sadness for the inevitable shift onwards.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I grew up in San Francisco where one needed to wear a sweater during the Summer.

Now I live further North. It is said you know you live in Oregon when the TV weather man says: "It's currently 73 degrees and there's no relief in sight!

It never reached 90 up here, until this which, which a quick glance of the calendar shows me it's September. Strange

Marylinn Kelly said...

T. - It may be age, the shift of light or temperature, or the fact that I forget from year to year, but there seems a tinge of sadness to everything right now. I wonder if others feel it?

Marylinn Kelly said...

Robert - Oh, 73 and no relief in sight. The wonder is that there is still room to breathe in Oregon...sounds dandy to me. And those chilly summer holidays spent in San Francisco

beth coyote said...

Oh, the snap-you explained it well. It always reminds me of Macintosh apple cider-upstate New York kind-and a shift in the trees, leaves beginning their downward slide into oblivion.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Beth - Once my sister named it, I knew that was it. As California kids reading SEVENTEEN magazine's fall fashion issue, we always longed for that apple/leaf shift, something a world away from our languid, over-heated drift into autumn. It helps to have a definitive moment.