It always happens this time of year. I'm always trying to hang on until after my birthday. That's August 20th. This year it lasted until my dad's. That's August 26th. I'm talking about giving in to the fact summer is winding down, and fall us upon us. As a kid, I hated it. I wanted summer swim parties like my friends had whose birthdays feel in the height of summer. Beach parties. A long day on the lake with friends as I got a bit older. But the fact was, and is, autumn rituals are underway by late August. Fall sports practices, back-to-school shopping (and back to school these days!) and cooler water at the lake, like it or not.
The signs of fall are less dramatic here on the coast of California, but they are there. And after a crazy busy, fun, action filled summer like 2012 it was a bit shocking to realize on Sunday, it's here. The beginning of the end. The week before had been filled with all kinds of activity and excitement. Humpback whales putting on shows down the road at Port San Luis as the bait they were feeding on moved close to shore. The Pelicans entertaining us daily with morning, afternoon and evening antics. Dolphins, seals, and sunshine. It was a great week to celebrate my birthday and my dad's 80th, and, unknowingly, to wrap up the summer of 2012.
But on Sunday evening, when my friends and I made our ritualistic walk to sunset, something had changed. The chill of summer evenings wasn't there. (It's ironic, I know, but the warmest time of year often hits about now at the beach in California and things cool off a bit inland a few miles where they've been enduring temperatures near and well over 100.) There was no fog moving in to cool off the heat that can build on a summer afternoon. The pelicans, well sadly, they have started to move on. There were a few, but there was no sense of "it's playtime!" but more like that feeling when you're packing up the summer cabin and you take one last walk down to the waterfront to check it out before you leave for the season. They seemed to be doing a sentimental fly-by, taking in one last look at their pals on the shore, the sights and smells and sounds before they joined their friends on the journey south until next spring. And the whales moved out Monday as well. There were still spouts offshore, and will be likely for a few weeks as they continue their migration, but they're not hanging out in the Port anymore and the frenzy of activity has died down there as well.
Things are quieting down at the beach. Locals typically like that. But it's still a melancholy feeling. My friends and I were making bets when the sun would fall back into the water instead over the mountain ridge to the north of us. We know it is dead winter when it sets dead center in front of us as we stand looking out over the beach. We all picked days, and whoever guesses closest gets dinner cooked by the rest of the gang on the beach the day it happens.
There are other fun winter rituals ahead. Harvest time is around the corner in the vineyards, and fun celebrations to go with it. But a lot happened since we cheered the arrival of the pelicans last spring, and started watching sunsets happening later each day, and it's always a little jarring to me to realize another season is wrapping up. Because it always seems to happen, almost overnight. I am ready to give into it now. But it may take a few days to for the melancholy to go away