Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's Almost Here...

(Tybee Island, south beach)
It’s almost here, and it won’t come too soon for me. Just 18 more days until the Autumnal Equinox, or the Sabbat of Mabon, the second of the three yearly pagan harvest festivals. As anyone who knows me is aware, Autumn is my favorite time of the year. If Fall were the perpetual state here on Earth…if we had the one season throughout the year…I would be the happiest camper around. The moody deep tones of the Fall color palate; the slight chill to the air, requiring one to wear a sweater or light jacket; the mandatory scents of spiced pumpkin, apple, ginger, and cinnamon; shorter days where everything takes on more of the qualities of a two-dimensional painting, from the variety of colorful and withering trees, to the matt variant grey washes that seem to cover everything. Just a little bit longer.

The Summer is winding down. What about the Summer? Here in the deep South? What words best describe Summer here? Hot…Suffocating…Mosquitoes.

(Sunrise onTybee Island, north beach)
Summer in Savannah, on the comparatively small Georgia coastline between the states of Florida and South Carolina, is on the whole extremely hot. With temperatures that can easily enter the 90’s, the heat index can add an extra ten degrees or so, pushing the heat factor into the 100’s. The heat alone isn’t what gets you…the humidity is what can really make things intense. Even inside in a more controlled environment of air conditioning and ceiling fans, the humidity can keep you moist. The one thing I most dislike about the humidity is the fact that I never feel like I can get dry after a shower. That and how heavily it can weigh on you. Whatever motivation or energy you may have when you go outside on a hot Summers day is going to be drained, no doubt about it. There is a reason that so many films depicting life in the south have southern ladies fanning themselves and sipping Mint Juleps or Lemonade, while sitting inside a shaded white gazebo crawling with climbing roses and honeysuckle. They are ‘feeling a might parched’, and doing their best to beat the heat.

As for the mosquitoes, they are terrible here during the hotter months. Especially during July and August, a regular joke during this time of year is that the mosquito should be our official state bird. I live in Chatham County which encompasses the area on the Georgia coast. We get 40 different species of mosquitoes. The city has a crew in charge of mosquito abatement, and they do spray for the little “buggers”, but I don’t notice that it does much good. (Sadly the mosquito spraying has killed off the Lightning Bug population. I love Lightning bugs, but I guess if I have to choose one…)

('Blue Moon' ~ Pisces Full Moon, August 31, 2012)
One example of how bad the blood suckers are is an encounter I had this past Friday night. I headed to the marsh edge to catch some photos of the 'Blue Moon' as it came into sight above the horizon. I found a good position in an area between two condo buildings, and started positioning my tripod. The mosquitoes quickly learned of my presence and began to swarm and dive bomb me. I felt like an all you can eat blood buffet. I swatted a few, and then attempted to ignore them long enough to take some photos. I snapped several and decided it was time to head back home (my pics weren't as good as I hoped as I was a tad distracted). I looked down at my arm and there was easily more than a dozen mosquitoes drinking away. (As a supplemental note for those who aren’t aware, the smaller mosquitoes are the females…those are the ones that go for your blood.  Interestingly enough, the scarier looking bigger mosquitoes with the long legs and wings are the males, and they are harmless.)

(Pisces Full Moon, August 31, 2012)
There is something that I will miss about the Summer. The longer days. I do enjoy Summer evenings. Things cool down a little, and the dusk goes on forever. The dusks of Summer are grey enough to feel the calming of night’s approach, and light enough to go for walks and explore. Summer evenings remind me of when I was young. I enjoyed the longer days because I could stay out longer. I loved being outside with my friends. That seems like another lifetime now, when kids actually went outside to socialize and be active. Of course my favorite element of Summer evenings would have to relate to Autumn, October to be exact. There is something about that span of time each Summer day, when the light dims and everything is tinged with grey. Like little slices of October, reminding me of what’s to come in a few months’ time.

The heat of Summer always reminds me of an old phrase, “The dog days of Summer.” I’m sure everyone has their version of what they think the “dog days” signify. I have always thought them to signify how lazy a dog can get in the heat of the day. I envision a dog sprawled out in a shade snoozing away, his ear moving reflexively as a fly or mosquito buzzes by. Although my assumption makes perfect sense, it veers a bit off the mark.

The ‘Dog Days of Summer’ are the hottest days which fall during the months of July and August. The term references the appearance of the star Sirius (Canis Majoris or the ‘Dog Star’), which is part of the Canis Major Constellation. For an idea of how big and bright Sirius is, it is said to be more than 10 times the brightness of our sun, and 3 times the mass/size. You will see the arrival of Sirius in your night sky on the same day each year. It is often seen as changing colors, due to the light creating a rainbow effect as it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere. As most of us learned in school, sailors in days past used the stars and their positions as a means of navigation. During the hottest days of the northern hemisphere (between July and August), the constellation appears. The brightest star within the constellation, Sirius, can be seen with the naked eye as it appears on the eastern horizon.

The star held great significance to several ancient civilizations. The peoples of Ancient Greece saw Sirius’s appearance as the signal that the heat and dryness of summer had arrived. The star was believed to have great influence, and in rather negative ways. Weakening men, withering plants, and the like. If someone was seen as being under the influence of the star, they were said to be “star-struck”. Inhabitants of the Greek island, Ceos, offered up sacrifices to both the Dog Star, and the main God of their pantheon, Zeus. A main goal of the offerings was to receive cooling winds. When the star rose at Summer, if it shone clearly in the sky, then good fortune would follow. If it appeared more faintly, then bad luck in the form of pestilence was said to be the result. The Ancient Egyptians used the appearance of Sirius to gauge the time of the annual flooding of the Nile, and the summer solstice. Just some of the ancient beliefs.

To many, the end of Summer happens when the kids go back to school. I see that as the end of “Summer break”, not the actual season. For me and many others, the end of Summer occurs at the Autumnal Equinox. It is one of two Equinoxes, or days (the Vernal, or “Spring”, being the other), when the Sun is positioned directly above the Equator creating a day and night nearly equal in length (12 hours each). The term Equinox is derived from Latin, meaning “equal night”. According to the positioning of the Earth in relation to the Sun, the Autumnal Equinox falls on September 22, 2012. 

However you choose to look at it, we will see a shift as the hot Summer days give way to the cooler Autumn days. 

I can’t help but feel a hint of impatience...

(Subtle ripples in a bird bath)

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