Summer’s End: a disjoint on home
This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #143. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
Peripatetic. Orientation. Discourse.
In the summer we look up. Palm fronds cling to the horizon. Thunderstorms shade the sun. Silhouettes of verdant skyline darkened by the blue hour. Sky maps peninsula, characterizes its landscape.
The conservationist Marjorie Stoneman Douglas once wrote of Florida’s Everglades in plural:
“Nothing anywhere else is like them; their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space.”
We destroyed the land, a living ruin by her time, but not yet the firmament. Azure reflecting green. An etching of terra incognita. “Reclaimed” before we could see all of it, now only visible in inverse.
Before I knew how soon I was leaving, how far I would go, I dedicated my evenings to the gravel trail of a nearby entrance to the swamp. My eyes turned up to the birds and clouds and the stunt plane practicing over the ridge, walking through blue distance this, the last summer.
Windswept thunder cells cast the sky in shadow, else their vapors magnify the luminescence. It should not be so bright as the sun, nearer the surface, recedes. But the nimbus departs, and the rays descend.
Yellow colors the grass, so much browner for the heat. As light recedes, its golden glare concentrated in saturated clouds. A jet soars overhead, suspended on a sunbeam stretching to a horizon I cannot yet see. An image of thunder, and what precedes.
It burns like embers in a hearth. The clouds, the sky itself. This ancient glade has been called the lungs of the Earth, should the sky of a summers sunset not be its heart? So much worth staying I feel sick some days. Night creeps upon my longing, propelling this daily ritual. I feel no nearer its end when the sun rises.
* * *
There was one question I could never answer.
As fall in Florida, the name comes first.
* * *
I feel I have written the same essay every month. Sketching a vernacular of the sky. Forming words to an unanswerable question. I know, but I can’t reason with it. It is in my bones. I thought maybe I could bend myself to the thought. I spent a year writing an eponymous column, yet it is one end I have not reached.
North by rail, day cedes to night. Not all ends end in arrival. I watch the sun set on Dixieland. There is red in the sky. It won’t illuminate, does not glow. As dim and as dark the night, some blue and yellow left above, the clouds unlight. I know I will see the same moon as you, but I will miss those sunsets.
The equinox approaches (it is upon you). I reckon with how I have yet to learn the mid-Atlantic’s geography, when last I was taught in US history. So much worth saying, but what words do you call the sky? The train crosses Virginia in early morning as summer leaves before autumn colors fall. There is more driving afterwards.
The blue hour returns. Summer departs
and autumn comes when you’re not yet done.
Autumn Wright is an essayist. They do criticism on games and other media. Find their latest writing at @TheAutumnWright.