The hard bright skies and drought of summer are passing.
Mornings are turning cool.
The rains have returned, fitful late summer rains that bring with them the sullen bump and rumble of night thunder. The streets steam in the afternoons with the aftermath of the sunshowers.
The small urban animals have suddenly appeared in haste to find their winter's stores; the several species common to the city, the survivors and the scavengers and the scroungers willing or able to live close by Man. Starlings and scrub jays, squirrels and opossums and raccoons all reappear after their long summer loafing scrabbling for the late-summer fruits and the provender of the tray feeders as the closing of the Door into Summer warns them the long cold nights of winter are coming.
The schools reopen, the children, the adolescents, and the young men and women pulled back into them, disappearing from the streets like the lost children of Hamelin.
Somehow the rhythm of the workweek is changed by the absence of these smaller people, as if the knowledge that they, too, are back to their work makes my own workday different.
The house-painters finish their work, touch up the last of the thin spots, take up their dropcloths and their paint rags and depart. The clean whiteness of the siding shines brighter gemmed with raindrops, the trim crisp gold and greed standing out from the new coating.
On the front porch the old fir planking shines rich red-brown, released from ninety years of darkness under layer upon layer of paint.
The Befreiungskrieg Mojo and I waged with our stripping gel and sandpaper fought through the wire-belts and bunker-lines of the years, beginning with our own forest green down through the gray left by The Former People to colors of which we had no understanding. Who had thought that the gaudy Christmas-Time Green was a good idea? Or the fire-engine red? And more gray? How much gray does a house porch need? Light gray, dark gray, medium gray...fifty shades of gray or more.
At bottom the wood of douglas-firs long reaped, nicked and scarred and darkened by long wear and hard use. Wood for the working day, cull of the straight-grain Twenties but clearer and smoother than anything sold as prime lumber today. Wood that feels smooth and clean under the hand and glows with antique character as I sweep the coats of lacquer across it.
In the grass of the yard outside the summer-sere gives way to the first return of green. A scattering of leaves whirls down, the first of autumn's cascade. Spiderwebs banner bush and limb and trail across your face as you pass; the garden spiders seem to suddenly appear in late summer with the other urban wildlife in a final burst of energy before the cold.
All of this I observe in passing, because the other late-summer change has been the rude uprising in my workweek. For most of the last half of August and the first week of September I have risen, dressed, and departed in darkness and returned in darkness as well.
I have observed the changes I've described almost as a passerby, stopping to assess the changes in a place he often visits but does not dwell. Noting the gross differences in color and shape, the subtle alteration of habit and use.
Smiling the secret smile of knowledge shared with strangers, at the shared recognition of small details that only the familiarity of long acquaintance can lend.