However imperceptible day-to-day, nature’s seasons are always changing, until one day it becomes apparent. In these waning days of August I have noticed how twilight comes earlier. To quote Emily Dickinson, “The Dusk drew earlier in”. As I walk around the City, I see increasing hints of what is to come. Not only does the sun sets earlier; we encounter more frequent cooler days—welcome refuge from debilitating heat, yet also a reminder of waning summer—and a few leaves are starting to change colors, with tinges of yellow now mixed in with deep greens. Here and there, an occasional yellow leaf floats to the ground.
With these early harbingers of Autumn come the awareness of the changes that loom in our human ordering of time, conventions and rituals that align with nature’s cycles. Though seemingly removed from nature in our built environments, with temperatures regulated by air conditioning and heating system and artificial light tricking our circadian rhythms, our bodies unavoidably sense the changes in nature around us.
People fortunate to vacation out of town return home, packing away beach chairs and flip flops. Children return to school. It will soon be time to exchange shorts and tee shirts for sweaters and other warmer clothing, and work has a way of ramping up. Like the harvest season that is to come, our energies shift from a state of greater languor (why hurry when it will be light out until 9:00?) to a feeling that it is time to hunker down and focus more fully on work – even for those of us working full time through the summer.
But as Dickinson’s poem suggests, with the waning of Summer, and the Summer’s waning light, we transition not into grief but rather, with the coming of Autumn, another season of beauty.
As Imperceptibly as Grief
By Emily Dickinson
As imperceptibly as Grief
The Summer lapsed away –
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy –
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon –
The Dusk drew earlier in –
The Morning foreign shone –
A courteous, yet harrowing Grace,
As Guest, that would be gone –
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
With longer daylight hours and more time spent outdoors in the warmer air, Summer offers an opportunity to consider the play of sunlight and how it interacts with other natural features.
Consider the magical, filtered light of the sun distilled through a canopy of trees. Shafts of light beam down like spotlights, capturing particles moving in the air. The light feels awe-inspiring and effervescent. The Japanese have a word for this: "komorebi".
Consider too how sunlight interacts with water. If you find yourself near a body of water--one of New York City’s beaches, like Coney Island/Brighton Beach, the Rockaways, or Orchard Beach, a pond or lake, or even a pool (I am a great fan of NYC’s public pools, like the one at John Jay Park), take note of the light and its dazzling, crystalline clarity. Observe how it reflects off the surface of the water, and how the reflecting changes if the water is still or choppy. Slices of light--patches and dancing light--offer a full-on light show. Notice how the light reflects off the water onto nearby objects--rocks, trees, and other surfaces, offering shimmering reflections of continual movement, with almost cinematic effect, like an experimental film.
If immersed in the water, notice how the light filters through the water--a variation of komorebi?--and the shadows on the bottom. Shape-shifting forms moving with the smallest of waves connect the features of light and water. Even raindrops gathered on tree leaves and branches offer a dynamic show as light filters through these tiny translucent reflecting chambers, like small mirrors or lights.
Take a moment during these Summer days to notice the light shows around you.
About this Blog
Hi! I'm Nancy Kopans, founder of Urban Edge Forest Therapy. Join me on an adventure to discover creative ways to connect with nature in your daily life, ways that are inspired by urban surroundings that can reveal unexpected beauty, with the potential to ignite a sense of wonder.