This blog post is a serving of gratitude. Simple thankfulness. Think of it as a mix of my love for the mountains and cool air, along with a good dose of mindfulness.
I’ve been debating what to write about this week and in the end I took a step outside and knew. Yes, I look forward to when the haze that is smoke season lifts and the fires to the west disappear.
That means there are many to the west of me who have it far worse than I do. How much forest is being lost? How much wildlife is displaced? How many human lives and homes are at risk?
Less than perfect visibility? I can live with it. I have a lung condition and I can still live with it.
So, here we are in August. Here I am in the Rocky Mountains of Montana in August. For me, that’s what makes it perfect. It’s my warm gateway to the autumn I love so much. A corner turned. Yes, I know of the dog days of August. When I lived on the coast the month was about high humidity and the beach. The ocean was a great way to find relief, especially for those who weren’t as pale-skinned as I am (I’m an honorary lobster).
Still, the mountains pulled me west.
Here in Missoula, lovely spring rains give way to lush green in May and June. The heat arrives in July, but it’s a tolerable dry heat. It can soar at times, but someone from Phoenix would chuckle at the highs. Days over 100˚F (38˚C) are rare.
And then comes August.
It comes in the door disguising itself as July, cloaking itself in haze if there’s much of a smoke season (does make for spectacular sunsets).
The similarities end there.
Statistics will tell you August’s highs are little different than July’s. Technically, that’s true, but the experience is different. In July it’s hot by late morning and stays that way until sunset (so far north, the days are LONG here in July, though direct sun often ends far earlier than statistics say because of the mountains). In August the day must build to its eventual high, often not making it until late afternoon. I’ll go for a walk, and though the sun is warm, there’s a touch of cool in the breeze.
That’s what I call Autumn’s Whisper.
The days that so often reach above 90˚F (32˚C) in July rarely get that far in August. Too, the nights around 60˚F (16˚C) in July are closer to 54˚F (12˚C) now. That means equilibrium in my apartment. Leave the windows open. No AC. No heat. Maybe run a fan on low to move the air. That’s it.
Warm days. Cool nights. Humidity around 35%.
What this means for walks is that anytime is a good time. Bugs are no issue unless you wander into a low, boggy area near one of the many rivers. You have to exercise hard to sweat. The vivid green of summer’s first half gives way to faded green or beige in the foothills as the taller grasses sense Autumn’s Whisper. The breeze is cool. Even stepping into the shade makes a huge difference. Wildlife is more active.
And all the while, for my tastes, I know September will be even better.
But it begins in August. Dog days? The dogs are busy fetching sticks out of the river or chasing Frisbees.
Autumn’s Whisper. It’s begun. My gratitude is echoed in birdsong and in the breeze the eagles ride. It’s the soft drumroll in the river’s flow and the chatter the squirrels share from a perch on a lower branch. It’s the strings playing in each breath. It’s the Ravel Boléro-like beginning to a crescendo that’s still months away.
Every year I’m grateful like I am right now.