The days are getting shorter as we all too swiftly pass to the equinox. It has been two months since the sun hung highest in the sky and the days were their longest. The swells of summer, tides, and tourists have left their indelible marks on this small village of ours, and I am considering what has changed in the hour and a quarter of brilliant sunshine I have lost in the passing of these sixty days.
It isn't my favorite time of the year, instead preferring the time just after Labor Day to when the cycle begins anew, sometime around July 4th. I respect and empathize with the emotions this town of mine engenders and remember well the days I used to visit and dream of making a life here. My first visit was very long ago, and I was different then.
The man I had married had deep ties to this place of sun and sand. He grew up here back when a spring drive through the canyon meant passing fields of strawberries, before the hillside of Newport Coast had been tamed with row after row of houses, and there was a gay bohemian culture that erupted on weekends in amusingly unique ways. His family pioneered this western coast and populated it with grocery stores in a gold rush of their own making and made a life here that included a beach house on a private cove just south of here.
I remember the first time I met him in one of those eastern neighborhood barbeques just after he had moved east with his family. He wore Van tennis shoes and OP corduroy shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt, and I thought I had encountered the surfer from the mystery date game that was so popular when I was a girl. Open the door, and you could have either the handsome man dressed nattily in a white dinner jacket or the image that stood before me. Funny how so many things have changed and yet, so little has. The Mystery Date and Dating Games evolved to the Bachelor and with it went the small cottages that used to fill the space inside the green belt that encircles our village, replaced by big homes and people that don't make their life here all year, the nattily dressed types in white dinner jackets.
I met him at the end of summer when he was soon off to college, and I was off to finish my last year of high school, and that was supposed to be that. But it wasn't, and years of making up and breaking up ensued. When the finality of our time together came, it was the rhythm and cadence of a west coast life that stayed with me, and I became part of the waves of people who wanted a piece of this idyl. It would be years and lives before I would move here with a different husband and find the rhythms of the sea and the cadence of our life together in this place.
The hour and a quarter of lost daylight have brought a chill in the air that annually catches us by surprise. Each night we sleep under covers so casually kicked aside during the long evenings of high summer when the heartbeat of our life is more in sync with the sun than any other part of the year. We fill the hours with long hikes up the hillside behind our house, or along the beach, followed by lunches of fish tacos and cold draft beers, long afternoons of reading and writing and golden hours of photographing. We plan our daily excursions to accommodate seaside pilgrims and are out early and first returning to the safety of our home while they still sleep in the earned pause of vacation. If we dare to venture out in the evening, we rely on the kindness of friends, the reward of a winter's worth of patronage to ease the strain of long queues and crowded venues, but mostly, we unapologetically stay put in this place we have called home for so long.
The hour and a quarter loss of bright sunshine have resulted in the long shadows so appealing to the photographer in me and with them the seamless horizons of the descending sun that stir in me the recognition of summer's end and the seasonal transition to fall. I think of the word transition, of movements and passages, and modulation and of those of this year as we move from the long days of summer into the fall, and later the winter.
Once, a few years back, I happened upon a night of passage as the graduating seniors of this and neighboring towns gathered seaside for one last night of summer revelry in this first transition of a lifetime of them. Excitedly they gathered by the fire facing in equal parts fear and anticipation for the lives on which they were embarking. Met with the same, at that juncture in my life, I am not sure I could have left this place of endless summer.
And I am not sure I could leave even now in this life transition from fall to winter. My hair, now the color of snow, belies the warmth in my heart and the chill in the air reminds me that fewer summers are in front of me than behind. So it is that I take my hour and a quarter gain in light and spirit and enjoy the waning days of summer fearless of the transition and the cold, filled with gratitude for all the days that have come before.