The “official” start of Fall is September 23rd; a Monday this year. The Autumnal Equinox demarcates that period in Earth’s revolution when the sun is directly overhead at the equator. As we continue our revolution around the sun, that overhead position relative to our planet will remain in the southern hemisphere until next Spring.
If there’s one thing that we can learn from seasons, it is that time is in control. Alone, the basic science that has served as our lens into our planet’s climate system and its current state reveals that, though our planets Equinoxes and Solstices have remained fixed, Weather has not. Time is the universal historian, a record keeper documenting change through the character of our seasons. What has not changed is our perception of the seasons. I have found this to be particularly true for populations living in the mid to upper latitudes that are geographically situated in areas most susceptible to the fluctuating influence of the sun on our planet as it makes its routine trip each year. For many adults that have spent the majority of their life in these climate regimes, the character of seasons past is a nostalgic, distant memory, an affliction that has become our relationship to what we know as Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.
As a kid, I remember the character of Fall presented itself shortly after the first week in September. It was a welcomed time after three months of Summer’s heat and humidity, and the excessive influx of visitors to area beaches that has always been synonymous with Summer in coastal resort towns. With September, once came cool, crisp air, the migration of birds filling the skies, and a calm collectedness that seemed to fall over the adults. As I write this, we’re already into the middle of September, and the sound of cicadas continues outside my office window as if it were 4th of July weekend. The daytime high today, September 12th, 2019, made it into the upper 80’s, nearly a full 10 degrees above the climatological daytime average. Pelican’s too, this year, generally a more common site further south of the Mid Atlantic, seemed to migrate to our area in numbers much larger than seasons past.
It is a peculiar thing, one’s relationship to the seasons and the Weather that we associate with them. There are those that wish for the heat of summer to never cease, as if the sultry air of July and August exists to preserve our happiness. Some anxiously await the first shift in winds, relieved when the familiar breath of a north wind carries the scent of Fall. And Winter, the season that brings with it the challenge of learning patience and the time necessary to develop understanding of the importance of balance for a harmonious existence in this life. Spring returns with the promise that life is possible, and that it can thrive when all its forms work together, fluidly with time.
In the most basic sense, seasons reside as our way of recognizing the passing of a year, just as the phases of the moon record the progression of a month. We organize time with the year, which is further organized into the months and days which our hours and minutes are used to ensure we have an accomplishment waiting to greet us at some time that we have not yet even experienced. I don’t believe that time has always reflected this sort of rigid order. I believe that our concept of time was once in agreement with the rest of our natural world. Once upon a time, our energies and actions were focused on finding a balance with the world around us, rather than trying to dominate it.
To understand climate, we should consider Earth as a living organism, and Weather as the immune system of Earth. It is Weather that serves to balance out the imbalances of energy across the globe.
Today, we are out of balance with the seasons, and it is creating a chaotic storm among the societies of our world. Our planet’s Weather patterns are telling us so. The story of our rigid concept of time and how first world modern society has chosen to use it is evident in our struggle to abate a rapidly changing climate. If we think of Earth’s Weather patterns, that is, the current state of the climate as the immune system of our world, it becomes apparent that the political, economic, and social order of society is out of balance. They have become the pathogens responsible for the sickening of our planet.
If a balance among the inhabitants of this world and the ecosystems which they depend upon is to be restored, we all must come together. Time, so it is said, doesn’t wait.
All too common today is the fact that, as we age, time is regarded as something separate from ourselves, a threat to our existence. We are taught that time is something to fear, and, out of that fear we are compelled to control time. The result is what we see today in the habitual practice of control over Nature and abuse of our natural resources. The concept of time is fluid, but it is our first world modern society which has manipulated the lives of its population to conform to time in a rigid manner. We have been conditioned to believe that adventure of one’s spirit is a distraction from fulfilling one’s duty as a member of society. That is, during our first 20-30 years of life, we are conditioned to believe that adventure of the physical body, mind, spirit, and the soul are mere fantasies of the rebel that prevent him or her from securing any kind of success. Here is a case in point, among many other examples which I witness on a daily basis. I recently came across an advertisement for a bank which I’ll not mention. The banks advertisement read, start your journey to financial confidence today by saving for the moments that matter most. The ad was accompanied by the image of a young man sitting on top of a new SUV looking out over mountains and lush valleys. A marketing strategy, albeit a sly one, that has bribed the population of society to put their adventurous spirit on hold with a false promise of financial security that will bring us closer to those things that we aspire toward.
This leaves a significant percent of the population with the feeling that they have never lived, having spent the best part of their time here preoccupied with the tasks and demands that others’ dreams procure. What we’re left with is a population of individuals desperate for something to believe in. Within the population, some of us will accept life’s challenge of fulfilling our own dreams, others will forget their dreams in pursuit of the security, money, and possessions which we’ve been led to believe represent success. It is this very fact that I truly believe is at the root of the problems facing human civilization today, including that of a looming, inhospitable climate. This isn’t to say that having financial security and nice things is the problem, and, in fact, I believe to achieve such is an achievement which put’s those in the position to focus their energies on environmental and humanitarian matters. It is to say, however, that it is the gluttonous race to have more that has led to the predicament human civilization now faces.
The present state of the climate and that of the imbalance between human civilization and the rhythm of the rest of the natural world is a trend that was set in motion long ago. Some would argue it was initiated around the time of the Industrial Revolution, though I believe the gradual decay of morals and ethics took place well before. Long ago, however, we didn’t have the science that today tells us how our climate systems work and how interconnected, and therefore susceptible it is to processes and actions that take place on this planet. As a close friend of mine likes to say, “you don’t know what you don’t know until you know.”
I recently read an article in Scientific American by Kate Marvel, a climatologist at Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In the article she states the following on the issue of climate change: “…it is precisely the fact that we understand the potential driver of doom that changes it from a foregone conclusion to a choice, a terrible outcome in the universe of all possible futures.”
It is up to the leaders of the free, and not so free world to do what is morally right and environmentally ethical. For the sake of the one miracle which all of us must remember, our Earth. Once again, Time doesn’t wait, it is fluid, no matter how rigid we try to mold it.
Like the majority of us, I am not in the position to make decisions which have profound effects on the life of this planet as we know it, nor do I wish that such was the case. I am, however, in a position to encourage those around me to begin thinking a bit more critically, a bit more philosophically about our time here on Earth, what it means to be human, and what our responsibility as care takers of this Earth entails to ensure its marvels thrive long after I am gone. I believe in some things. I believe in writing, and the power it holds to facilitate knowledge, free the soul, and represent our species’ perception of the world around us.
I often reference Nature as our teacher, as the living book of answers to life. Knowing that it is the climate of an environment which dictates Nature and its natural order, I find that there is wisdom in the seasons, and learning to read the seasons and understand the character of each has a way of guiding us through the life we live, in a world that is the fluid concept of time.
For me, this Summer, more so than ever, seemed to have taken a mental toll. Summer on the East Coast, in a resort town that thrives on lots of people, lots of events, and lots of “stuff” easily causes one to forget about the present and constantly worry about what’s next. Feeling the bull of Summer’s character, I felt it absolutely necessary to take the last few weeks of August to travel north up the coast to “gather my thoughts,” as the saying goes. On this particular trip, I kept my itinerary loose, fluid. With it came some backcountry camping, some excellent surf in the fabulous state of New Hampshire, time spent with family and a close friend, and a lot of reflection.
The following represents some of the thoughts and ideas that I gathered during the last weeks of August, and the words I’ve decided to use to express the importance of living in the present.
When we think of all the events and moments in life that have led us to where we are, time stands still at last, and the importance of the present is finally revealed. We must learn to recognize the moments in life that bring us back to the present. These are the moments that bring us into the fluid time of our natural world. What Thoreau refers to in Walden as “the meeting of two eternities, the past and the future, which is precisely the present moment.” It is by living in the present that we may see the value of our Earth, and the fortunate circumstance each of us are in as we drift along in the fluid time of our natural world.
A temporarily lost feline friend lies in the sunny corner of a raised porch.
I but another soul on the northeast side of the New Hampshire cabin of a brother.
Listening to the call of a neighbor’s rooster and the crickets that sing of Autumns
I am here, in the present, in a coastal New England town.
Wind rustles the leaves of trees that twist and turn down brother’s hill.
A wood bee is busy about boring a hole into a log.
This moment is now written and, ready to learn more
I am here, in the present, in a coastal New England town.
A bird calls for more attention while the feline friend rests and reflects.
He has seen this before in times past. This land is ours to appreciate.
Wisdom is in the wind as the first leaves of the season fall.
I am here, in the present, in a coastal New England town.
Fauna to remind us that we are but just another guest,
and the trail before us to show us the rest
Rocks for us to gaze upon and wonder, how many stories came before our own,
and the time it will take before we read ours in the stone.
Like concentric rings of a tree that we’ve discovered can be dated,
and Nature a teacher to show us how it’s all created.
I went to school to study Weather, not because the field of meteorology was luring and promised a financially successful career, but because, as a child and still today, I recognize that it is the Weather of our planet which dictates, as much as I can acknowledge, every aspect of life as we know it. Weather documents the past, dictates the present, and foretells the future.
Better to live in the present and contemplate our world than to live in the past and dictate its future.