The wind blew, and summer was gone. This is how it happens. One day, a day on either side of the middle of August, something changes. The air feels different. The angle of the sun shifts one critical degree in its southern arc. The wind brushes your skin in a particular way, and you feel the change. It is a feeling before it is a thought. The animal within lifts its nose to the wind, tastes the air, and knows.
The grackles came on the 13th of August. I was sitting by the French doors, at my table where I watch the feeders in the morning. I heard them first, with their wings that pull the sound from the air, then I saw them drop from the sky, sleek and so black they are iridescent. Yellow jewel eyes that see everything, each set of eyes belonging to the whole. They are brusque in their approach, but aware. Indoors, I shift in my seat, and they notice.
“You are early,” I said, then remembered that they are the bringers of the season, not the calendar. They stand on their black wire legs on the grass, one of them on the feeder, broadcasting seed for the others. The creaking call letting woods and fields know they are here. You cannot miss them — just like the shift in the wind.
I spoke to a friend who grew up in the islands. She told me how the Christmas winds come every December there. “It’s just a breeze,” she said. “From a different direction. You feel it and there is no question: the season has changed.” This shifting of the season is something that, despite all our distractedness, our obsession with newness, the body knows is still important.
Some part of us, an old part, our intuition, knows. Our minds may attempt a challenge with logic and reason. “But it’s still summer!” Questioning this deep, knowing instinct nearly always leads to trouble.
Have you ever sat by a fire for the entirety of its life? A fire starts with a swelling intensity. The fire builds. It expands. The heat has an outward intensity. At some point, the fire reaches its peak. The wood has been converted to light and heat. And in one nearly imperceptible shift, it begins to contract. It is a receding now. The heat that before reached to the woods behind you starts to pull closer, as if it wants more of itself to keep warm. It is still hot. It still burns. But it is different in a way that only the body notices at first. You lean in just a bit.
The grackles will come again. Next time, they will come in a great swarm, advancing through the trees in short bursts. They will strip the oaks of their acorns. Their voices will fill the woods and you will stop and look up. They will seem to settle in, but when you shut the door, they will all take to the sky as one, sucking all the sound from the world with their wings.
We have turned the corner to fall. There will still be hot days. The flowers that like cool nights will bloom in purple and yellow. Bees will still hum the sound of sunlight. The sun will feel sweeter, in the way another’s presence does when you know she is leaving. You will make more time to be with her. Each touch and smile is bittersweet.
There will be wet grass in the mornings. You will pick up a sweater as you walk out the door. The sun will settle a little more to the south each day. One morning, the dew on the grass will be hard crystal. One day the north wind will bite your neck. One day a daffodil will push up through a pile of wet leaves.