In mid-November, after a month on Maui, I returned to Mexico where the weather was fine and much like the climate I’d just left behind on Maui’s North Shore – highs in the mid 80s, lows in the mid-70s. A surprise late-season swell had just arrived, treating fellow surfers and me to some fun waves at Nine Palms for the first several days. The sun’s strength was evident from the skin on my face and legs, which was transformed gradually from hues of seared pink to a gradually deepening roasted brown.
Three days ago the weather changed, shifted, and was altered dramatically as though someone threw a switch in response to the approaching solstice. The sun lost the searing intensity felt only two short weeks ago. And in the early hours of the evening, it now plummets out of the sky causing shadows to lengthen like long fingers grasping at something in the landscape. Where previously, I sought shady patches to escape the sun’s intensity, now I search for sunny spots where my extremities, numbed by encroaching coolness lurking in the shadows, are warmed.
Three nights ago, I awakened from a sound sleep to the sound of an urgent thudding sound. My dog Peanut, laying beside me on the floor, stirred simultaneously. I sensed her concern and felt the stab of fear in my gut as I strained with all my senses to discern the source of the disturbance. Whump! whump! tha-wamp! babang! I heard loud banging on one, or was it more, of the wooden doors. In that moment, that throat-clenching pause, with sleep still enveloping my brain, I was certain a horde of plunderers, rapists and henchmen were forcing their way in through the doors. The rush of fear wiped the haze of sleep from my head and, as I gave it a shake, I realized the true source of the turmoil. A fierce wind had risen during the night, just as my kitesurfing neighbor had prophesied, and was hammering away at the door. I relaxed and my brain flooded with the ridiculous image of a Samoan warrior beating on the door with a large club of the sort they used to dispatch their Fijian neighbors.
I turned my attention to the sounds coming out the dark. Winds of 40 miles an hour were surely blowing and stronger gusts made me question our security (mine and Peanut’s). I quickly realized that I’d left several windows open when I retired, when I thought only of the fresh night air making it more pleasant to sleep. Now, realistic or not, I pictured screens ripped open by the force of the gale and gathering myself further, quickly went about securing the windows closed. Even with the windows shut, the door continued its whump! whump! tha-wamp! babang! so that as I crawled back into bed and the dog settled on her cushion next to me, I wondered if I’d ever get back to sleep.
The sheets had cooled noticeably while I’d run around closing things up in the dark and it was then that the realization hit me – summer is over. Even in this area, tucked just below the Tropic of Cancer and therefore technically a part of the Tropics, a crispness had entered the air where previously it was all softness and warm caresses. I shivered in response, a purely psychological reaction, and pulled the heavy yellow, black and red-striped blanket up from the foot of the bed, tucking it under my chin as though in doing so I might keep the pressing seasonal change at bay.
Another twenty days and the cycle will begin again, imperceptibly at first, to reverse itself. The days will get longer and the sun gradually stronger. The sea that cools with the shortening days will be warmed once again by the approaching sun, energizing summer storms, hurricanes and their offspring the waves.